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OLYMPIA — Despite misgivings that it was too meager, the House Ways and Means Committee gave overwhelming support to a $480 million change in the state's financially strapped budget.
Committee Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, called it a downpayment.
Rep. Gary Alexander of Olympia, the Republican budget leader, said it was a disappointing "partial downpayment. Yet Alexander and all other Republican members of the panel except one voted with Democrats to move the cuts to the floor with only minor amendments to cover technical problems and funding for a new aviation education program.
Among other amendments voted down was a proposal by Rep. Charles Ross, R-Naches, to end a program reward state employees for reducing commuter miles by carpooling and other means. He called it the commute trip reduction system a bonus with a state employees the state can no longer afford.
When Republicans said they hoped the plan would be considered for elimination in January, when the Legislature tackles the more difficult cuts, Hunter replied: "I can safely say everything is under consideration.
OLYMPIA — A Republican member of the House Ways and Means Committee expressed serious doubts Friday the Legislature would pass a new budget before time ran out on the special session. And the chairman of the committee did nothing to contradict him.
At the start of a hearing on various programs that would be eliminated under Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposed cuts of some $2 billion, Rep. Bill Hinkle, R-Cle Elum, wondered if anyone in the room thought the Legislature "would vote the governor's budget out by the end of special session."
"I don't think it's going to happen," Hinkle said. "Are we really going to do that?"
Committee Chairman Ross Hunter, D-Medina, replied that was a question "the chair is unable to answer."
Hinkle asked for a show of hands for those who thought it would happen, but Hunter didn't allow that vote to proceed, and began taking testimony on a bill to reduce the state's payments to rural hospitals.