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House budget advances from Appropriations Committee; floor vote expected Friday or Saturday

Post by Melissa Santos / The Olympian on April 11, 2013 at 10:29 pm with No Comments »
April 11, 2013 11:52 pm

A budget plan that would raise $1.3 billion through new taxes in Washington state passed the House Appropriations Committee late Thursday night, setting it up for a vote on the House floor Friday or Saturday.

leg moneyThe spending plan proposed by House Democrats would eliminate 15 tax breaks for certain businesses such as travel agencies, while raising taxes on commodities including beer and bottled water. That money would help put $1.9 billion toward basic education in Washington state, which legislators are under a court order to fully fund by 2018.

The budget passed the House committee on an 18-13 vote at about 10 p.m. Thursday.

“I think this is an honest and responsible and stable budget,” said Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, the Appropriations Committee chair and chief author of the budget plan. Hunter said the House budget “addressed the three major tasks that everyone identified as the projects for the Legislature when we arrived,” which he said were to adopt a balanced budget, increase funding for K-12 education and to fund expansion of Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Additionally, the House budget includes funding for improving the state’s mental health programs, Hunter said.

The budget still needs to be approved by the full House, and then will have to reconciled with the budget the state Senate passed last week.

The Senate proposal included no new taxes, an approach that Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia, said was far preferable to the route taken in the House budget. Alexander, the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, proposed replacing the House budget proposal with the Senate’s plan Thursday, but the idea was shot down by other committee members.

“I believe if we were to act favorably on the Senate budget … we would respond to our citizens to say we can live within our means, we can prioritize to make those difficult decisions, we can work together across the aisle,” Alexander said.

Alexander said that he feels the tax increases proposed by the House “would have an adverse affect on our economy.”

Hunter said he will not consider some aspects of the Senate plan, including a proposed $166 million transfer of school construction funds to help balance the state’s operating budget, a move he says is  unconstitutional.

Hunter has also criticized the Senate budget for assuming the state can save $157 million in “unnamed efficiencies.”

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