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Senate Republicans pass alternative budget

OLYMPIA -- An alternative Republican budget passed the Senate 25-24 early Saturday morning after more than nine hours of parliamentary maneuvering and sometimes heated debate.

Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, the architect of the spending plan said he hoped the Legislature could now "go forward" and negotiate a budget between House and Senate proposals, although Democrats on the short side of the vote seemed doubtful.

Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said any negotiations will be difficult: "We can't negotiate in good faith if you don't have trust....The Senate was hijacked tonight."

Sen. Jim Kastama, one of the three Democrats who joined with Republicans, admitted the plan is not perfect: "It's a beginning. It is a bipartisan budget that sets the stage for a sustainable budget in the future. The final budget will not look like this.

"There is a time to campaign for what you want, and there's a time to govern with what you have."

Sen. Tim Sheldon, another Democrat who broke ranks to support the budget, said it merely gives conservatives "a chance to negotiate."

If Republicans and the dissenting Democrats want to negotiate, they'll have to give up their demand for an all-cuts budget, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle said. They'll have to be willing to negotiate on tax exemptions and tax preference, or the Legislature will be in a special session for a very long time, he said.

Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said changes the Democrats tried but failed to make showed her party's priorities for the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged. The Republicans cuts show a preference "for the folks who've alreadly got it made."

Brown said she was fooled by Republican leadership, after meeting "week after week" and being told they'd show Democrats their proposals. "I was fooled," she said.

But Sen. Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla, the minority leader, said he and Zarelli hadn't been at a scheduled meeting with Brown and Murray since Feb. 16.

The Senate budget will now have to be negotiated with a much different House spending plan, written and passed by Democrats, and Gov. Chris Gregoire, who must sign it.

Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said Democrats put up a good fight over their amendments, but "you got beat by the rules." The public, he said, doesn't want a conservative budget or a liberal budget.

"The people of Washington just want a budget that works," he said. The two parties will have to get together to work on that. "We're gonna be mad for a few days...then figure out what we need to make it work."

Among Spokane-area senators, Democrat Lisa Brown voted against the GOP budget, Republicans Mike Baumgartner, Mike Padden, Bob Morton and Mark Schoesler voted yes. On the unsuccessful Democratic amendments, the votes were reversed.

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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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