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Manuel Valdes the Associated Press
Published: 15 April 2011

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- The Washington state Senate rolled out a proposed two-year state budget Tuesday that includes a 3 percent statewide pay cut for K-12 teachers -- an unusual move as lawmakers try to contain a multi-billion dollar deficit.

In all, the Senate budget proposal slashes $4.8 billion in state spending as it tries to fill in a $5.3 billion deficit in the next two-year state budget. It also includes more than $450 million in fund transfers and leaves an ending balance of about $740 million.

The wage reduction for teachers is a new proposal, which budget writers say will save the state $250 million. Teachers, who have frequently been under state wage freezes in the past, haven't seen a pay cut in recent memory.

Teacher salaries are combination of local, federal and state money. Under the proposed cuts, school districts would have to decide how to deal with the reduction in money.

The Senate also has a plan to penalize school districts with high truancy rates -- something budget writers assumed will save another $95 million.

Combined for more than $450 million, these two cuts to education are the key difference between the Senate budget and the House proposal, which didn't have the teacher pay cut.

Last week, the House rolled out their proposal, which cuts $4.4 billion in spending. It also included a plan to privatize the state's liquor distribution, earning the state a projected $300 million. But the idea has gotten a lukewarm response from Gov. Chris Gregoire and it wasn't included in the Senate proposal.

"It's not a budget of choice, it's a budget of necessity," said Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, chairman of the Senate's Ways and Means committee.

The Senate budget is the last piece of the puzzle as lawmakers head for tough negotiations on state spending in the last two weeks of the legislative session.

The state is struggling to shed the impact of the Great Recession, and in billions have been cut from the state budget over the last four years. In March, the state economist said Washington would see $800 million less in revenue in the next two years.

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