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House Budget Foes Swamp Senate Panel With Complaints

Senate budget writers, preparing to release their spending plan on Wednesday, got an earful Monday from lobbyists lambasting the House proposal to cut public schools, social services and higher education.

“We are completely discouraged by the heartlessness of the budget” sent to the Democratic Senate last week by the Republican-led House, said Barbara Casey, a lobbyist for the state PTA.

“The cuts in public schools, in social services, are too much. We are willing to give up our tax rebates for the sake of our children,” she said.

She and others referred to the House proposal to slash mostly business taxes by nearly $800 million to finance a two-year budget that at $17.3 billion would be more than $600 million less than the budget proposed by Gov. Mike Lowry.

House Majority Leader Dale Foreman, R-Wenatchee, the main architect of the House proposal, has defended the plan as written for taxpayers rather than spenders.

But teachers, university presidents and advocates for the poor and disabled told the Senate Ways and Means Committee that the proposed cuts would be devastating.

The Senate, which has proposed tax cuts of about $150 million, is expected to resist reductions of the magnitude pushed by the House.

Foes of the House proposal spoke at the first of two hearings in as many days on the House plan. There were few comments in support of the proposal. The panel today will hear from environmentalists, state employee unions and others who would be hurt by the proposal.

Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Nita Rinehart, D-Seattle, is expected to unveil that chamber’s proposed budget on Wednesday. Eventually, the measure will go to the House for rejection and the two sides will meet in conference committee to work out differences.

Lobbyists and lawmakers are predicting at least one special session to complete budget work. The regular session ends April 23.

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