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House transportation budget proposes leaner service cuts, smaller rate hikes for ferry riders

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House lawmakers have released their proposed 2011-2013 transportation budget, and it includes less service cuts and a smaller rate hike to Washington's ferry system than Gov. Chris Gregoire's earlier bid.

The House proposal cuts ferry services by $3.1 million, compared to Gregoire's $20 million reduction in her December budget. Gregoire also had proposed a rate hike of 10%. The House proposal puts it at 7.5% in 2011 and 2.5% in 2012.

State officials say the ferry system has a $180 million shortfall in its operating budget due to falling tax revenue.

Totaling $8.9 billion, the House budget consists of $1.1 billion for highway maintenance, $402 million for passenger rail and $237 million for ferry terminal and vessel projects. Transportation revenue for the next two years is also worse than expected, down $100 million from earlier projections.

The Senate will release their proposal later this week. Lawmakers will then negotiate all proposals.

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