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Originally published Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 5:10 PM

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Wash. Republicans balk at Democrats' budget plan

House Democrats have passed a budget agreement that keeps in place a delayed payment to schools that Senate Republicans have said will ensure its failure in the Senate.

Associated Press

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OLYMPIA, Wash. —

House Democrats have passed a budget agreement that keeps in place a delayed payment to schools that Senate Republicans have said will ensure its failure in the Senate.

The proposal passed on a 53-45 vote hours ahead of the midnight Thursday end of the 60-day legislative session. It's an agreement between House and Senate Democrats, but is not expected to be the final budget that passes the Legislature. Gov. Chris Gregoire already met once with leadership from both parties in the House and Senate on Thursday and they were expected to meet again sometime in the evening.

Gregoire first insisted on a budget deal by midnight, but has since said she wants at least a framework. She has said that even with a deal, a special session would be necessary to procedurally get everything done in the coming days.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

House and Senate Democrats on Thursday reached an agreement on a new budget proposal, but Senate Republicans said that if majority Democrats try to bring it up on the Senate floor, it won't pass.

The House Democrats' chief budget writer, Rep. Ross Hunter, introduced the replacement bill - known as a striker - to amend a Republican-crafted plan that passed the Senate over the weekend. The new proposal makes no cuts to education or higher ed, but still includes a one-day delay in payments to school districts to help balance the budget, a move Republicans have decried.

The move is a final hour effort to get a budget passed before the 60-day legislative session ends at midnight Thursday. Gov. Chris Gregoire has insisted on a budget deal and has said that a special extended session would be necessary to procedurally get everything done.

Gregoire met with leadership from both parties Thursday morning, and she called the House proposal "a good step forward." She said she expected to meet with lawmakers again later in the day to see if they had a "conceptual agreement" on how to get past the roadblock over the delayed payment issue.

"Right now I'm going to push them as hard as I can to get there," Gregoire said. "Anything short of that to me isn't acceptable. We have a job to do and we need to get it done."

In the new Democratic proposal, a $330 million payment to school districts would be delayed by one day to move the obligation into the next two-year budget cycle. Republicans have said that the idea is a non-starter for them.

Democrats, in turn, don't like the Republicans' plan to delay a pension payment by a year.

Gregoire said Thursday that once lawmakers are able to get past that impasse, she didn't see a problem of getting a budget agreement passed.

"The fundamental problem is, unless we have a breakthrough on the big issues, you can't get the inside of that budget resolved," she said.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said the new proposal was a start that shows "one clear document to look at, that reflects where both House and Senate Democrats are."

She said that the new proposal from Democrats makes some moves toward Republican ideas, including some cuts to a welfare program for the poor.

Lawmakers are looking to close a budget gap of about $500 million through the end of the two-year budget cycle ending June 2013, as well as leaving several hundred dollars in reserves.

The budget drama began last Friday and continued into early Saturday morning, after a Republican-crafted budget passed out of the Senate with the help of three conservative Democrats. Senate Republicans have argued that Democrats have refused to talk with them, and note Senate Democrats are still a vote shy of getting the new proposal out of the Senate.

The Republicans' plan makes deeper cuts to state programs than either House or Senate Democrats' original plans do, especially in health and human services programs. It also proposed $74 million in cuts to schools and colleges.

Republicans were able to advance their budget with a rarely-used procedure known as a "Ninth Order," which allows any bill to be pulled to the floor - even those that haven't had a public hearing. That budget passed early Saturday on a 25-24 vote. The plan, as passed, had no chance of getting past the House, where Democrats hold a 56-42 majority.

But Republican Sen. Joe Zarelli, of Ridgefield, who wrote the GOP budget plan, said the new plan offered by House Democrats equally has no chance in the Senate. He argued that no discussions between Senate Republicans and House Democrats have taken place, and that he believes Democrats are still looking for a 25th vote to pass their own budget in the Senate.

"What we get to see now is something House Democrats agree to and a minority of the Senate agree to," he said. "We've gone nowhere."

Brown acknowledged she wasn't sure whether they could find an extra vote in the Senate to pass the budget, and that she hadn't yet decided whether she would try to bring it to the floor after the House passes it later Thursday afternoon.


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