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House Dems budget tries to save Basic Health, Disability Lifeline

OLYMPIA -- House Democrats released their proposal for cuts to the state budget through the end of June, which veer off from Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal in some respects.

What Ways and Means Chairman Ross Hunter is calling an "early action budget" because it tries to get a quick vote on the plan to cut about $216 million from the state general fund and transfer another $124 million into the general fund from other accounts. Some further cuts would likely have to be made after the March economic forecast numbers come out, Hunter said.

The House Dems' proposal would continue to provide some money Basic Health Care for low-income children at the current level, and the Disability Lifeline which provides payments residents who are too disabled to work. Saving Basic Health long-term could take a statewide vote on a source of money.

It cuts programs for food assistance, child abuse prevention, prescription help for seniors, community health clinics, family planning and mental health assistance, but not as much Gregoire's proposal.

Education cuts are about the same, but the House Dems want to keep state money for levy equalization, which is a way the state helps out smaller and poorer districts that don't have the tax base that other districts have.

Ways and Means finished a two-hour hearing on the proposal shortly before 6 p.m. in which reprieves were sought for a wide variety of programs on the chopping block. Hunter said the committee will probably vote on this budget plan on Wednesday afternoon, and the House could take it up as early as Friday.

The bill is PSHB 1086.

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The Spokesman-Review's political team keeps a critical eye on local, state and national politics.