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Originally published Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 10:40 AM

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GOP pushes new budget without education cuts

Republicans and a few Democrats in the state Senate released a new spending plan Thursday that avoids cuts to education by relying on a skipped payment to the state's pension system.

Associated Press

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OLYMPIA, Wash. —

Republicans and a few Democrats in the state Senate released a new spending plan Thursday that avoids cuts to education by relying on a skipped payment to the state's pension system.

Senate and House budget writers have been unable to broker a final budget agreement, and Republican Sen. Joe Zarelli said the latest proposal was designed to find some common ground. Democrats had balked at an initial Republican-led budget plan that would have cut some $43 million from K-12 education and $30 million from higher education.

"What we've tried to do is draft a compromise approach here," Zarelli said.

The revised proposal released Thursday relies heavily on changes to the state pension system, such as skipping a $140 million payment. That is offset in the long term by ending early retirement for future state employees.

The new plan also keeps less money in reserves, leaving $440 million.

The budget plan has the support of three Democrats, providing the GOP enough votes to pass the measure through the Senate. Democratic Sen. Jim Kastama said the new plan takes the previous bipartisan bill and makes it better.

"We've proved the cynics wrong when it comes to putting partisan politics ahead of our duty to govern," Kastama said.

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Mike Baker can be reached at http://twitter.com/MikeBakerAP.

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