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Senate Democrats’ budget a ‘game changer’?

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Feb. 28, 2012 at 2:26 pm with No Comments »
February 28, 2012 3:28 pm

It was something of a miracle in some onlookers’ eyes: Democrats rolled out another budget plan today that has $322 million in spending cuts. But as Mary Lindquist, president of the Washington Education Association said, the Senate’s partisan budget proposal spares K-12 schools for the first time in years – largely by making a $330 million permanent shift in when school districts get their state allotments.

The plan also unexpectedly spared major cuts in human services. And in laying out their plan, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, and her top budget writer, Sen. Ed Murray, said they want to start looking longer term at a better source of financing education.

“It’s the first time since 2008 that we’ve had a budget that doesn’t cut higher ed and K-12,” Lindquist said, unlocking a smile she hasn’t had a reason to use much recently. “I may have been more pleased by Sen. Brown and Sen. Murray’s comments that we’re going to get a path forward to fund the paramount duty of the state.”

Of course to do that, Democrats are postponing a payment from June 2013 to July that year for K-12 schools. That $330 million delay is smaller than the $404 million proposed by Democrats in the House, and it is a move that minority Republicans are dead-set against doing. Go here for details in the various plans.

Republican Sen. Joseph Zarelli “won’t be endorsing the Democratic budget,” one staff said. I’m waiting to talk to the GOP’s budget leader later in the day.

The other tricks relied on by Senate Democrats: More than $74 million in savings from merging the Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Fighters retirement plans 1 and 2. Another is leaving a much smaller end-fund balance of about $369 million – well below the $500 million left by House Democrats, the $650 million left by House Republicans and nearly $800 million Zarelli was seeking.



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