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Washington House passes spending plan

Sat., April 25, 2009

OLYMPIA – Just 10 hours after unveiling the details, House lawmakers approved a $35 billion state budget Friday night that includes about $4 billion in cuts.

The budget, which now goes to the Senate for approval, passed on a largely party-line vote, 54 to 42. It includes numerous fee increases but no major tax hikes. It cuts schools, health care, social services, higher education and government.

Majority Democrats said they did the best they could to curtail spending without destroying schools, health care and the social safety net.

“This is not a budget we would have chosen in a perfect world, but this isn’t a perfect world,” said House budget writer Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham.

Minority Republicans blasted the plan, saying that it continues to overspend when budget writers should be slimming government.

“We should be making the hard choices now,” said Rep. Matt Shea, R-Mead.

The two-year operating budget relies on about $5 billion in federal stimulus dollars and other one-time money. To Democrats, that money was a lifeline at a critical moment.

“This budget is responsible and I’m proud to vote for it,” said Rep. Eric Pettigrew, D-Seattle.

Republicans blame Democrats for state spending that’s grown by $8 billion – or 33 percent – in the past four years.

“This state made promises it could not keep,” said Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend. “… We have lived on credit, and we’re going to continue living on this credit card.”

Democrats say it’s unfair to blame them for the greatest economic downturn in decades.

“This is the Great Recession,” said Rep. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island.

Also Friday, lawmakers released a transportation budget that includes $28 million more for the North Spokane Corridor project and $250,000 for a turn lane at the intersection of Highway 195 and Cheney Spokane Road.

Lawmakers had hoped for more for both projects. But in a tight budget year, they did the best they could, said Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane.

The $28 million, he said, was by far the largest amount set aside in the budget for new work. It will pay for engineering work, updating environmental documents and buying land for the freeway’s next phase from Francis Avenue to Upriver Drive, he said.

“We are now teed up to proceed,” he said.


 

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