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      House committee begins work on state budget

      The final draft is being put together of a $5.2 billion general fund House spending plan.

      COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- The final draft is being put together of a $5.2 billion general fund House spending plan that's expected to bring reductions in South Carolina's public school, college and health care spending. According to the Office of State Budget last year's general fund was around $5.1 billion. The total state budget was $21.1 billion.

      At Tuesday's meeting, some democrats questioned the projected numbers.

      Democratic Representative Harry Ott said,"I think this is a very much underestimation of the anticipated revenue coming in for next year based on the increase revenue that has come in this year."

      Republican Representative Kenny Bingham responded,"I do want to take up for the BEA being conservative if that is what they did in their estimate because I don't think any of us want to find ourselves with having to find money mid year anymore."

      House budget writers Tuesday are dealing with a $700 million gap that comes after federal bailout cash has dried up for the budget year that begins July 1.

      That money mostly helped shield public schools, colleges and the state's Medicaid programs from steep cuts during the past two years.

      The state's Medicaid program for the elderly, disabled and poor is running out of cash already. For the budget that's ending in June, the agency has a $225 million shortfall. A $100 million bailout state bailout backed with expected surpluses and reserves should fund their care through April.

      (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)