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Wash. House budget proposal passes key committee

Thu., April 7, 2011, 3:59 a.m.

OLYMPIA — A House committee has approved the Democratic majority’s state budget proposal aimed at closing an estimated $5 billion deficit for the next two years.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted along party lines late Wednesday to advance the plan.

The proposal, introduced Monday, slashes state spending by $4.4 billion and would privatize wholesale liquor distribution in exchange for a $300 million upfront payment.

It also cuts nearly half a billion dollars from higher education and halts automatic increases to state employee retirement plans.

The committee rejected an alternative proposal by House Republicans that scrapped liquor privatization and eliminated state contributions to a health care program for the poor.

The Democrats’ plan now heads to the Rules Committee. House leaders are hoping for a floor vote later this week and think they have the 50 votes needed to pass it.

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