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Senate Ds’ budget: No education cuts or sales tax hike ?>

Senate Ds’ budget: No education cuts or sales tax hike

Majority Senate Democrats have unveiled a proposed budget that deals with a billion-dollar budget gap without cutting K-12 or higher education, or relying on a voter-approved sales tax hike.

Their plan involves deferring a school support payment into the next biennium, saving $330 million; cutting spending by $356 million; adopting $31 million in new revenue; shifting $71 million in solid waste tax revenue to the General Fund from the construction budget; and capturing about $150 million in agency savings and reserves.

The proposal leaves the two-year state budget at $30.8 million, with a projected reserves of $369 million.  The House plan cuts higher education $65 million and has modest K-12 cuts.  It shifted more education payments into the next biennium, pushing forward over $400 million in costs for the next budget cycle.

The plan is without public support from minority Republicans, who helped draft and pass the last two budgets.   Republicans in both chambers have decried the education shift as a “gimmick” that kicks the problem forward, and want both larger cuts and a larger reserve.

After both houses pass their budget proposals, negotiators will hammer out the differences.

Adjournment deadline for the regular 60-day session is Thursday of next week, March 8.

House D budget: Cuts, delays, but no sales tax hike ?>

House D budget: Cuts, delays, but no sales tax hike

Majority House Democrats launched the endgame of the election-year 2012 legislative session Tuesday, unveiling their plan to close a billion-dollar budget gap.

They propose doing this by shifting $405 million in K-12 payments into the next biennium; creating a few new taxes; shedding some revenue-sharing with local government; and cutting higher education, social and health services, inmate supervision, parks, State Archives and other programs.

The proposal includes some new revenue, including $18 million from a new tax on mortgage bankers and $13 million by taxing manufacturers of roll-it-yourself smokes.  It does not, however, require a half-cent increase in the state sales tax that Gov. Chris Gregoire had proposed for a springtime election before the state’s economic picture brightened recently.

The plan also does not require 24 furlough days by state employees, as House Republicans had proposed, nor does it cut salaries of state workers and teachers or charge them more for their health coverage.  The budget cuts the state payroll by 1,554, including about 900 layoffs due to voter approval of a 2011 initiative privatizing liquor retail.

In all, House budget Chairman Ross Hunter said, it’s a “workable solution that doesn’t do long-term harm to our state.”  In describing the state’s descent into red ink in recent years, he said “What is obvious is that we can no longer afford many existing expenditures,” particularly with a looming court mandate to ramp up K-12 support from the state level.

One change, he noted, is that the state must wean local governments from state appropriations.

Hunter said the proposal does not “securitize” future revenue streams as a way to pay for today’s spending, nor does it skip any pension contributions.

He said education suffers “no significant damage,” such as the governor’s idea of shortening the school year and levy equalization, subject to restoration with the sales tax vote. Higher education, though, does take a $65 million hit ($35 million community colleges, $30 million (more…)