SC Senate begins debate on $5 billion state budget

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina senators are beginning debate on a $5 billion state spending plan that relies on fee increases to keep police on the beat and the state's courts operating.

After an hour of description on Tuesday of the cuts throughout the budget, legislators were getting down to debating details of the spending plan.

Even as debate for the spending plan that takes effect July 1 began, legislators were being warned that even worse problems loom for budget writers a year from now. That's when federal bailout cash disappears and lawmakers expect a $1 billion gap between revenue and spending demands.

Almost half of that would come in health care programs for the elderly, poor and disabled. State Sen. Thomas Alexander of Walhalla said a cigarette tax will ease some of that.

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