RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue and Republican legislative leaders confirmed Wednesday an agreement to fill a $515 million funding gap for the North Carolina state employee health insurance plan while keeping a free premium option for workers intact for at least another year.

Perdue's office and Senate leader Phil Berger announced the deal that appears to end a monthlong stalemate over cost cutting within the State Health Plan, which pays health care costs for 663,000 state employees, teachers, retirees and their dependents. Charles Thomas, the chief of staff to House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said House Republicans also support it.

Perdue vetoed an earlier deal April 13 that would have required the 322,000 active employees and teachers to pay a monthly premium for the first time. She said in her veto message the Legislature hadn't taken into account the needs of teachers by keeping them from the negotiating table.

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