OLYMPIA -- Admitting that it's not the final solultion to the state's fiscal problem but a way to "move the process forward", House Democrats passed and sent to the Senate a spending plan to fill the state's budget hole.
The most important aspect of the budget that passed on a 54-42 vote, Ways and Means Chairman Ross Hunter emphasized, is "it does not cut education."
That's a not too-veiled reference to a budget passed in the regular session by Senate Republicans and three break away Democrats that did cut public schools and colleges. That group has since proposed a budget that restored those cuts to education, but it has yet to receive a vote.
The House budget has no new taxes -- some could be added later, including a tax on "roll your own" cigarettes the chamber passed earlier in the day and sent to the Senate -- and leaves the state with an ending fund balance of about $336 million, or less than 2 percent of the overall two-year budget of nearly $31 billion.
"This is part of the resolution to the special session," Hunter, D-Medina, said. The 30-day special session must end at midnight Tuesday, and many state officials believe it will be difficult to meet that deadline
Republicans said the budget doesn't go far enough to rein in state spending practices.
"It's not sustainable without the reforms," Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia, said. "It detracts from the negotiations process."
The Senate could vote on the budget as early as tomorrow if its members can reach agreement on several reforms, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, the chairman of that chamber's budget committee said.