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State Senate, House release competing budget proposals

The Washington Senate's Republican-led Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) unveiled its "Protecting Washington's Future" budget – a $43 billion spending plan – last week and quickly passed it by a 25-24 vote.

The Washington Senate’s Republican-led Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) unveiled its Protecting Washington’s Future budget – a $43-billion spending plan – last week and quickly passed it by a 25-24 vote.

The House Democratic Caucus released its $44.9-billion budget yesterday.

The spending difference between the two proposals is due to House budget writers’ reliance on a variety of tax increases over two years, including a 7 percent capital gains tax and a business and occupation tax increase for service-sector businesses, among other proposals that would impact small-business owners.

The release of the spending plans sets the stage for the final negotiations on a two-year budget, taxes and a McCleary education funding plan that satisfies the state Supreme Court.

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, the lead budget-writer in the Senate, said the Senate plan would fund high-quality public education, protect the state’s most vulnerable citizens, keep money in the pockets of working families, and would balance over four years.

He noted that 37 of Washington’s 39 counties still have an unemployment rate that is higher than the national average. To avoid putting more weight on a still-fragile economy, Braun said the Senate budget avoids any new taxes and carefully invests the increased tax collections in public education and the social safety net.

“The Republicans steered clear of setting any new taxes and rely on higher revenue from existing taxes, transfers from other state accounts and cuts to some government programs to raise additional money for schools,” The Seattle Times reports, noting that Democrats want to increase spending with new taxes.

Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said the House budget proposal “is a contract between generations that keeps our promise to 1.1 million school kids.”

Ormsby said the Democratic budget funds K-12 education, makes college more affordable, aids those in need, supports small businesses, and improves access to health care.

Gov. Jay Inslee quickly signaled his approval of the House budget, saying it meets his priorities: fully funding education and protecting services for the vulnerable.

“I am pleased we have two legislative budgets on the table and I look forward to working with the Senate and House over the coming weeks so we can reach agreement on a budget that fully and amply funds education and works for all Washingtonians,” Inslee said.

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