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Spin Control

Fri., March 2, 2012, 11:23 p.m.

Senate budget debate continues

OLYMPIA -- Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, debates an amendment to add money for family planning back into a Republican budget proposal. The amendment failed.
OLYMPIA -- Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, debates an amendment to add money for family planning back into a Republican budget proposal. The amendment failed.

Sen. Lisa Brown argues for an amendment to restore money for family planning.

OLYMPIA -- It'safter  10 o'clock. Do you know where your senator is?

In session. The state Senate removed a rule that requires they adjourn for the day at 10 p.m. and continued its debate over alternative GOP budget proposal moved onto the floor by a parliamentary coup by minority Republicans joined by three conservative Democrats.

"This budget is a backroom deal, and a poltical stunt," Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor charged as tempers showed signs of fraying.

Starting about 8 p.m., Democrats began offering a long list of amendments to restore finding Republicans are proposing to a wide range of state programs in order to make their budget balance without a tax increase or a shift of some $330 million in payments to schools.

Some of the amounts they tried to restore were large, including $148 million for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and $85 million for the Disability Lifeline. Some were relatively small, like $116,000 for international trade. They covered money for public schools and state universities, pension plans and toxic waste cleanup.

All failed, either by the one-vote marging that allowed Republicans to push their budget into the debate, or by voice votes.

Republicans said they were making difficult trade-offs among the state's many programs, and setting priorities. Democrats questioned how those priorities were being set, with a budget that had no public hearings.

"If you think this program is really important, how your going to pay for it," Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

"We have a way to pay for it," Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, responded. They would cancel changes to schools required by an initiative but often suspended and delay a payment the state is scheduled to school districts.

They locked horns constantly on that major difference between the alternative GOP plan forced onto the floor and the Democrats plan, that remains in the Ways and Means Committee. Democrats want to delay $330 million payment the state makes to schools by one day, from the last day of this biennium to the first day of the next, and keep that payment schedule.

Republicans call that a gimmick, and that the state should pay it's obligations on time. "It's pushed forever into the next year," Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, said.

That "looks good on paper," Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle countered, but it results in real cuts in the classroom and to social programs.

The schools prefer the accounting move, called an apportionment shift, over cuts to the classroom, based on testimony on the Democrats' budget plan at the Ways and Means Committee, Brown said, turning to Republicans. "If you had been there, you would've heard."

During a break in the debate, Zarelli said he realized that the budget propsal would go through changes in negotiations with the House. But Republican ideas would be represented at those discussions with one GOP budget on the table.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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