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SC lawmakers start negotiations on nearly $11 billion budget

June 15, 2021 GMT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina lawmakers are hammering out differences between the House and Senate versions of the state’s nearly $11 billion budget ahead of the new fiscal year next month.

A conference committee of House and Senate members met briefly Tuesday to begin the process. Lawmakers emphasized the state’s relative economic health as fiscal problems brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t hit as hard as expected, leaving the legislature with more money to use.

South Carolina didn’t spend any extra money it got in taxes and fees in the current budget in case they needed the savings to cover pandemic shortfalls. The state has brought in even more money this budget year than predicted, thanks in part to federal stimulus checks given to people and extra sales tax collections.

The House’s version of the budget includes a 3% raise for state employees, a $1,000 raise for all teachers and a proposal to prevent public schools from requiring masks. Senators decided last week not to agree with the House changes to the budget.

Legislators are trying to pass the budget soon so Gov. Henry McMaster can have time to consider whether he’ll veto any part of the plan before the fiscal year starts July 1.