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COLUMBIA -- The Senate Wednesday afternoon raised lawmakers' expense allowance by $12,000 per year but lawmakers would have to request the increase.

The 25-20 vote came after an attempt failed by Sen. Paul Thurmond of Charleston to table the proposal.

Thurmond argued the budget was not the proper way to increase money going to lawmakers and also argued that voters had elected senators not knowing they would raise their expense income.

Under the proposal, each lawmaker would be entitled to the extra money for in-district expenses but would have to ask for it from each body's clerk.

The increase could double the expense allowance for the General Assembly's 170 lawmakers to $24,000.

Sen. Kevin Bryant, an Anderson Republican who voted against the hike, told GreenvilleOnline.com he considers the money a pay raise because lawmakers pay taxes on the expense money and there are no rules on how it can be spent.

"I don't think it's a good time to vote ourselves a pay raise," he said.

Bryant said he would prefer all of what is paid to lawmakers be labeled salary and any increase be tied to any increase granted state employees.

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