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In party-line vote, House panel picks Dems’ budget

The GOP budget emphasizes cuts; the Democrats mix cuts, transfers and new revenue.

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By Jerry Cornfield
Herald Writer
OLYMPIA -- House Republicans put forth a detailed plan Wednesday for erasing a $5.1 billion deficit in the next state budget.
Not surprisingly, majority Democrats rejected it, then pushed ahead with their own version.
"We're trying to have a balanced approach with education and human services. I think we reached the balance, and theirs does not," Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest Park, said before a House budget panel turned down the GOP proposal. "It really is devastating to the safety net."
Republicans now must decide what to do with a 400-plus-page proposal they insist provides the state with greater budget stability now and in the future.
"We want everyone to know there is an alternative solution to what the majority party is proposing, and we welcome the contrast," said Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia. "Our budget proposal is accountable, responsible, sustainable, and reflects economic realities."
The House Republicans' plan spends $31.9 billion between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2013, with $933 million in reserves of the general fund, which pays for the state's day-to-day operation.
They plug the shortfall almost entirely with cuts, slicing $543 million more in spending than Democrats.
Much of that comes from eliminating the Basic Health Plan, which provides state-subsidized medical insurance for 40,000 people and wiping out the Disability Lifeline Program for generally unemployable adults.
Republicans also reject putting the state's liquor distribution in the hands of a private company -- a move Democrats count on to generate revenue to keep those two social programs operating.
The Republicans, like the Democrats, save $1.2 billion by not funding the education initiatives 728 and 732. They pare $550 million from higher education, which is a bit deeper than the majority party. Republicans and Democrats assume colleges and universities will recoup some of those dollars through double-digit tuition increases.
The one source of revenue both parties are agreeing on is a new $30 pass for access to state parks. That will bring in roughly $60 million.
Republicans said they cut about $30 million less from elementary and secondary education and put in $10 million more for increased security measures in state prisons. They also oppose early release of inmates, which Democrats are seeking to do to save money.
"There is definitely an ideological difference in how we are approaching the budget," said Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish. "Ours is a go-home-and-not-come-back budget."
Republicans may get their ideas on education and public safety included in the budget.
But not Wednesday, when the House Ways and Means Committee voted along party lines to reject the Republican proposal and pass the Democrats' budget.
That plan spends $32.4 billion in the next biennium. It gets rid of the shortfall with a combination of spending reductions; transfers into the general fund from other accounts, including the capital budget; and $300 million in new dollars from privatizing liquor distribution.
The full House could vote on the proposed budget as early as Friday.
Meanwhile, time is running out in the session, which is scheduled to end April 24. With the Senate budget plan not expected out before Tuesday, it's going to be tough to avoid a special session to wrap everything up.
"It's a shame if we can't get done on time," said Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623;
Story tags » Legislature

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