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Senate passes budget with property tax break
"Legislators played a game of chicken with the state budget this week - digging in, speaking out and rarely backing down. But if a budget isn't passed by tomorrow, the scheduled end of the legislative session, lawmakers will be stuck in Olympia for an extended session. Co-speaker of the House Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, said Monday that an extended session is possible because members of the House aren't likely to roll over and pass the Senate budget like they did last year.This year is a political replay of the situation last year. The Democrat-dominated Senate passed one budget while the evenly split House couldn't find middle ground between Republican and Democrat budget proposals.Last year, three House Republicans crossed party lines to join Democrats in approving the Senate plan.This year, the Senate passed its budget proposal within 24 hours of introducing it. Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-35th District, was one of two Democrats who voted no. I don't think it made enough significant cuts, Sheldon said. People were saying (by voting for Initiative 695) that government is too big. I think we should be cutting government before spending the surplus.The Senate plan uses $300 million from the state budget surplus to fund transportation programs. Overall spending is $175 million higher than the original 1999-2001 biennial budget.The budget is now under consideration by the House. It also includes a $200 per home property tax cut, which for an average home is larger than the Republicans' proposed 10 percent property tax cut. The Senate also passed a $3.1 billion transportation supplemental budget. It includes $10 million per year for passenger-only ferries paid for by a $10 increase in speeding tickets and a $50 penalty for more serious traffic violations. All but six senators voted to approve this plan. The transportation budget also includes $288 million for ferry operating expenses and $163 million for capital costs.The ferry system has a $22 million hole in its operating budget, and the Senate budget replaces $7 million of that deficit. By comparison, House Democrats proposed $10 for operations and House Republicans offered $20 million to be split between operating and capital costs. The House Transportation Committee as of Monday had not agreed on their own supplemental transportation budget. The state budget must be signed, sealed and delivered to Gov. Gary Locke's desk by midnight tomorrow."