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SC lawmakers in deadlock over budget negotiations

At the center of negotiations are disagreements over how much money to give to the University of South Carolina, Clemson University, and MUSC.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A deadlock over how much money to send some of the state's largest universities is holding up a budget deal.

State lawmakers originally planned to end their special session by June 1, but as of May 30th, neither chamber had plans to return to work.

At the center of negotiations are disagreements over how much money to give to the University of South Carolina, Clemson University, and MUSC.

Clemson University wants $87.5 million to build the first veterinary school in the state. The Senate agreed with that number, however, the House plan only offers $7.5 million. 

Clemson's in-state rival, the University of South Carolina, was another sticking point. The House plan gave the school $20 million annually for science and math programs and an extra $5 million for its medical school. Meanwhile, the Senate only offered $10 million for this year. 

"I'm not here negotiating the appropriations bill in the well of the Senate, but I will say tension is at a fever pitch over at the House," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Harvey Peeler. 

The budget impasse could hold up pay increases for state employees, teachers, law enforcement, and nurses.

"Certainly, we need to take care of our teachers and our state employees. We need our best and brightest working for us," said Rep. Seth Rose (D-Richland).

Also on hold are millions of dollars in local projects, like a Devine Street redevelopment, which Rose has requested $1.5 million for. 

"Our legislature is trying to address issues in our capital city and as a citizen of Columbia, I am extremely excited about our future," said Rose. 

Other key projects include $10 million to continue the Assembly Street railroad project, $2 million to redevelop Beltline Boulevard, and $7 million to expand the Vista Greenway. 

Freedom Caucus Vice Chairman Rep. RJ May (R-Lexington County) criticized the extra billion dollars in spending in this year's proposed budget. 

"I’ve been a no on the budget since day one. Unfortunately, moderate leadership is arguing about who can spend your money the fastest and for the worst programs," said May. 

The Chambers agreed to a resolution allowing the government to keep spending money at current levels if a budget isn't finalized before the end of June. 

"I'm a hope for the best, prepare for the worst kind of guy," Peeler told lawmakers last week.

The Senate president and the House Speaker can call back the chambers whenever a deal is struck.  

This is the third year in a row that lawmakers have returned for a special session. 

“Every day that government is in session is a day that you lose some of your freedom and lose some of your money.," said May.

So far, lawmakers have passed a six-week abortion ban, but bond reform, gun reform, and the budget remain unfinished. 

“I just wish we were going back to take up meaningful, lifesaving and quality of life issues," said Rep. Seth Rose (D-Richland County).

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