Budget advances to floor of House

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COLUMBIA - An income tax cut, more money for education and expanded health coverage for uninsured children are among the highlights of a proposed state budget heading to the House floor.

Debate on the $7.3 billion spending plan for 2007-08, advanced Thursday by the House budget-writing committee, is set to begin in mid-March.

A proposed $81 million income tax cut would go to nearly 1.1 million of South Carolina's tax filers. The plan would trim the state's top tax income bracket from 7 percent to 6.83 percent, giving a cut to nearly 80 percent of people who pay taxes. A married couple, for example, would begin to see a savings if their adjusted gross income - minus any deductions - is at least $30,050.

"Anytime you can give money back to taxpayers, that's a big deal," said House Majority Leader Jim Merrill, R-Daniel Island.

The plan also calls for $40 million for road construction and maintenance, a 3 percent raise for state employees, and $22 million to cover an estimated 70,000 additional children from low-income homes with health insurance.

It would also set aside $200 million to begin accounting for the state's projected $9 billion deficit in retiree health care benefits.

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