March 1, 2012 in Region

House approves supplemental budget

Rachel La Corte Associated Press
 

OLYMPIA – The state House passed a supplemental budget Wednesday that relies on $400 million in delayed payments and reduced support for local governments while largely protecting basic education from further cuts.

The bill passed on a 53-45 vote and now heads to the Senate, which unveiled its own budget plan Tuesday.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said that the budget strikes “a balance between protecting basic education, protecting public safety, protecting the safety net to the best of our ability. Let’s be clear, there are cuts in this budget, substantial cuts that will affect communities across our state.

In total, the House plan saves some $890 million without asking voters for a temporary sales tax increase originally suggested by Gov. Chris Gregoire. The Democrats propose to leave $504 million in reserves.

The biggest savings come from delaying $405 million in some payments to schools until the next budget cycle that begins in July 2013. The proposal also calls for $65 million in cuts to higher education and $224 million in cuts to health care and human service programs.

Republicans criticized what they said was the lack of reform in the budget, as well as the delay of payments to the next budget cycle.

“It continues to trouble me that we can’t just come together to work in a collaborative way to solve these problems,” said Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. “We need real reform, where we restructure, reshape, the size and scope of government.”

The House passed several amendments a day earlier, including restoring some cuts that had been made to environmental programs and supervision of violent offenders. They also approved an amendment that would prevent the deferred payment to schools if the next state revenue forecast is better than expected.

House and Senate Democrats will try to come to an agreement on the budget before the 60-day legislative session ends March 8.

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