Spin Control

Wa Lege Day 15: Budget debate begins

OLYMPIA -- Members of the House have begun their first real votes of the session, taking up the supplemental budget.

First up are amendments: On a unanimous vote, the House stripped out provisions to let the Transportation Commission set ferry rates. Sponsor Ross Hunter said it may have taken the bill beyond the rule that legislation stick with a single subject. The House can come back to the issue later, he said.

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Up now is the Republican substitute, called a striker. Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia, argues the GOP proposal is more transparent and more sustainable.

Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, says the Republican amendment pits education funding against social spending, when the two are intertwined.

The Republicans cut less money for education, leaving money in the budget for the remainder of the year for Kindergarten through Grade 4 enhancements and smaller classes, and cuts the Disability Lifeline, also known as GAU or General Assistance Unemployable.

Rep. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, said education has "given and given and given," while GAU is more generous than most states offer and has been proposed for elimination by several administrations.

Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Ballard, argued that the choice was between basics and enhancements. GAU is a basic for survival, the education cuts are enhancements. "They're all very difficult choices. You have to look at survival."

The amendment fails 41-57 on a party-line vote. Debate on Democratic version of the bill begins.

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Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, says the budget cuts are hard and painful. Real people are losing their health coverage, their safety net, said Hunter, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. "We're trying to create solutions."

Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland, said the Democratic version will "devastate research at WSU" cutting money for research on wine, meat and lentils. It cuts funding for education, which is the state's only constitutional spending requirement.

After a brief delay when most Republicans refused to vote because they wanted more debate, the Democatic version passes 55-43.




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