Legislative Updates: 2023 Wrap-Up, Part 2

July 5th, 2023
By Megan Chase-Muller

the Final 2023-2024 State Budget 

Last week we reviewed conservation successes from the 2023 Legislative Session at the South Carolina Statehouse, as well as events that had occurred since Sine Die.

´╗┐With several positive bills advanced or signed into law, lawmakers gave us plenty of reasons to celebrate, but the real success for conservation this year was in the State Budget, a process we have been discussing since week two of the Legislative Session. Read below for a look at the final 2023–2024 State Budget.

Missed last week's Update? Click here for a recap of the 2023 Legislative Session.

state budget highlights

As we have reported almost weekly since January, compiling the annual State Budget is an arduous process that takes an immense amount of patience and determination to compile, complete, and defend.

Upstate lawmakers were essential to this process, not only as heads of the House Ways and Means Committee (Chairman Bruce Bannister, Greenville) and Senate Finance Committee (Chairman Harvey Peeler, Cherokee), but we saw other leaders from the Upstate step up to propose and defend elements of the budget that would promote sustainable, healthy Upstate communities and landscapes.

The Saluda Grade rail line runs through Landrum in Spartanburg County

UF Budget Priorities Funded

  • $3 million to DNR for the State Water Plan, leaving just $2.5 million to complete the funding to set up the eight River Basin Councils. Upstate Forever has appreciated the strong leadership shown by DNR to complete this plan and participates in several of the councils. (Last week we discussed the outcomes of the DHEC Reform Bill, which includes moving this Water Planning program out of DNR to the new Department of Environmental Services.)
  • $37 million to the SC Conservation Bank, with $32.5 million available to fund conservation projects. While there is a growing interest among landowners in land protection, many cannot afford the upfront expenses required to protect their land — fees for appraisals, attorneys, and stewardship endowments, for example. One of the tools land trusts like Upstate Forever use is funding assistance from the SC Conservation Bank. This agency leverages partnerships among landowners, state agencies, municipalities, and non-profit organizations to protect our state’s significant natural lands and cultural resources.
  • $20 million in one-time funds to DNR for habitat protection and land conservation acquisitions that allow DNR to carry out its mission of protecting and stewarding our state’s natural resources. While the mission of this land conservation program is notably different, it is an important complement to the Conservation Bank.
  • $250,000 to the Department of Commerce to conduct a study on the potential growth of the offshore wind energy industry in South Carolina, as mandated by Act 245 passed by the General Assembly in 2022.

Other Funding that Benefits Conservation

  • $200 million in one-time funds to the Office of Resilience’s Disaster Relief and Resilience Reserve Fund.
  • $36 million to DHEC’s Dam Emergency Safety Fund, most of which will be allocated to replace the Lake Conestee Dam in Southern Greenville.
  • $4.59 million to DNR and $4.46 million to DHEC for critical staff recruiting and retention.
  • $11.75 million in one-time funds to PRT for state park development, upgrades, and maintenance.

As you can see, this year’s budget gave us much to celebrate. Please consider giving a special thanks to Chairmen Bruce Bannister and Harvey Peeler, and other members of the Ways and Means and Finance Committees, for their leadership and commitment to conservation priorities.

Until next January, that’s it for our legislative updates! In the meantime, look out for more opportunities from UF to engage with state agencies. In particular, the SC Public Service Commission will present several opportunities in the coming months to voice your opinion on upcoming decisions that affect your electric bills. We’ll send updates that will help you and your communities participate in those decisions.

As always, please be in touch if you have any questions about the legislative process, if you would like assistance in contacting or meeting with your legislators, or if you have any ideas to consider for next year!

Megan Chase-Muller
State Policy Director


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