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Washington House passes supplemental budget

Wed., March 5, 2014, midnight

OLYMPIA – In a prelude to end-of-session budget negotiations, the House dumped the Senate’s no-new-taxes budget that extended some tax loopholes for businesses, replacing it with a plan to spend an extra $140 million on education and other programs, partly by raising several taxes.

Democrats and Republicans traded charges of who was being irresponsible in making plans to raise money and spend it.

The Senate plan is irresponsible, said Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, by adding or extending tax preferences and shuffling money between accounts creating a future liability that he called “a balloon payment of bitcoins.”

The House Democrats are irresponsible by passing a tax-and-spend budget, Republicans countered. Their budget “is codependent on taxes we haven’t even talked about,” said Rep. Charles Ross, R-Naches.

The House spent most of the day on plans to spend money. In the morning, the House Finance Committee voted to levy a new tax on e-cigarettes and end four tax breaks. The committee voted on partisan lines to levy the sales tax on bottled water and to require out-of-state shoppers to pay Washington sales taxes and file for a refund if their total is above $25.

Although the supplemental operating budget passed later in the day relies on the money from those taxes, they haven’t yet passed the House. If they are in the final budget negotiated between the two chambers, they’ll come up for a vote later, Appropriations Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said later.

On bipartisan votes, the House passed a supplemental capital projects budget with some $166 million in new construction projects, and a separate plan to build some 2,000 new classrooms for kindergarten through third grade with bonds to be paid off by state lottery money. It also approved some $340 million extra in transportation spending.

In the lead-up to the supplemental budget vote, members of both parties supported a cost-of-living raise for teachers, something that is required by a voter-passed law but which the Legislature has suspended for the past six years to overcome budget problems. Rep. Hans Dunshee, R-Snohomish, said some people might support the raise because it will stimulate local economies as teachers spend the money. That’s not the real reason for the proposal, he said.

“It is about respect. It is about dignity,” Dunshee said.

Rep. Cathy Dahlquist, R-Enumclaw, said some Republicans would balk because cost-of-living raises are outside the priorities of the decision by the state Supreme Court that orders the Legislature to do more to meet its obligation to public schools.

The raises, which add $55.5 million to the budget, are among the House budget’s key differences with the Senate’s budget passed last week. Hunter said he’d meet with his Senate counterpart, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Andy Hill, R-Redmond, as early as today to schedule negotiations needed to settle on a budget that can pass both chambers before March 13, when the Legislature is set to adjourn.

“We will come to an agreement,” Hunter said. “We always do.”

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