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Haley has plans for employees' benefits

Gov. Nikki Haley said she will propose plans to reduce state worker health care and retirement benefits, adding South Carolina to the list of states considering trimming public employee compensation.

Haley's comments came at a town hall Thursday meeting in her political home of Lexington, the first in a series of six meetings statewide.

Haley took the opportunity to announce a new target: State employee benefits. Retirees will get their promised benefits, she said, but for new workers "we're going to have to make some changes."

Haley declined to specifically say what she would recommend, but said the state needed to begin tackling the $14 billion in unfunded retirement benefits due workers.

"There is no way we can continue to put our head in the sand," she said. "The current government employees, we're going to have to look at what we can do. Everybody else is having to sacrifice and cut and unfortunately government employees are going to have to be part of that mix."

State workers have endured layoffs, furloughs and no pay raises since the recession began hitting state revenues in 2008. Lawmakers and retirees worked together to restructure retirement benefits in 2009 in an effort to improve the retirement system's finances.