Washington Legislature passes budget proposal after all-nighter

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by KING 5 News and Associated Press

NWCN.com

Posted on April 10, 2012 at 6:55 AM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 11 at 5:16 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The Washington state Legislature has adjourned a double overtime session, finalizing a budget deal that had lawmakers working all through the night.

The Legislature adjourned Wednesday, after the Senate passed the measure on a 44-2 bipartisan vote and sent the bill to the governor for her signature. The House earlier passed the negotiated agreement on a 64-34 vote.

Lawmakers worked through the early morning hours passing several bills before taking up the budget. While details of the budget were still forthcoming, we do know the plan includes the following:

*$320 million in the rainy day fund

*a healthcare plan for K-12 employees

*a cut to pensions for future state employees who retire early

*no cuts to education budget

The approved budget had bi-partisan support.

"We were able to focus on working on public safety and getting Washington working again. It's not the budget we would have drafted, but it was a budget that we put our fingerprints on and we have to be proud of that," said Rep. Richard DeBolt.

"During economic good times, we finished on time. During bad economic times, we've had special sessions and I think that's because we really have struggled to try to get it right," said Sen. Lisa Brown. "When you're cutting your want to a balanced budget, it's tougher than when you're adding things."

The flurry of activity over the past two days was the culmination of months of negotiations over how to close a roughly half-billion dollar shortfall for the two-year budget cycle ending June 2013.

On Tuesday, lawmakers reached agreement on a bill addressing early retirement benefits for future state employees. That measure had been a key sticking point between Democrats and Republicans.

A Republican-led coalition in the Senate had insisted on several reform-related bills, including the pension one, before taking up the budget.

Senators approved the measure Tuesday evening by a margin of 27-22, clearing a major hurdle in the quest by lawmakers to complete their work.

State workers who retire before the age of 62 already have scaled back pension benefits. Under the new bill, workers retiring at the age of 55 would be reduced by as much as 50 percent. The changes only apply to workers hired starting in May 2013. The plan would save the state an estimated $1.3 billion over 25 years.

 

KING 5's Natasha Ryan contributed to this report.


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