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Washington state Senate passes $480 million in cuts

OLYMPIA — The Senate passed a $480 million “downpayment” on the $2 billion needed to close the gap in Washington state’s general fund budget.

On a 42-6 vote, members of both parties sent to Gov. Chris Gregoire about a fourth of the cuts and accounting changes she requested when she called them into a special session.

But Gregoire only had to get one vote, her own, in proposing a wide range of cuts to education, health care and social services, Sen. Joe Zarelli, the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said. The Legislature doesn’t work that way; it has to get a majority in two different chambers.

“You’ve got to move things back and forth,” Zarelli said. This was the best the two parties in the two houses could do in the 17 days they’ve had so far, and they’ll need the regular session, which starts Jan. 9, to come up with more changes.

Some people may consider the budget disappointing, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, the Ways and Means chairman said. They can blame him if they want, although “that’s not particularly helpful,” he added.

“I’m willing to take that responsibility. Then let’s move on,” Murray said.

The Legislature could adjourn later this afternoon after considering several more bills.