SC lawmakers hope to pass budget this week

By SEANNA ADCOXAssociated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A panel of House and Senate members is working to reach agreement on the state budget for the fiscal year that starts in two weeks.

The budget conference committee is expected to open its meeting Monday afternoon, following behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Issues left unresolved from Friday's meeting include whether to give state employees a 1% pay raise or cover increases in their health insurance premiums. Advocates for state employees say they'll otherwise see a reduction in their paycheck because of a scheduled increase in their pension contributions.

The full Legislature will return to Columbia on Tuesday for a special session.

Adoption of a budget this week would give Gov. Nikki Haley time to issue her vetoes and the Legislature to deal with them before the 2013-14 fiscal year begins.

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