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Wash. Legislature passes budget proposal, adjourns

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
State employee and local union president Thornton Alberg watches House floor action on the 30th day of the special session.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Governor Gregoire played the role of negotiator-in-chief. Her shuttle diplomacy finally brought the Washington House and Senate to a bipartisan go-home deal. Lawmakers needed some extra time on the clock. But they were able to pass a budget that closes a half-billion dollar budget shortfall.

The deal accomplishes that goal with a combination of cuts, fund transfers and even a tax on roll-your-own cigarettes. Lawmakers also approved a package of public works construction projects. The goal is to create 20,000 jobs.

And then there were a series of reform measures designed to save the state money down the road. One would scale back early retirement benefits for future state hires. Thornton Alberg watched that vote from the House gallery. He’s a current state worker and union leader.

“Feels like a personal attack. We’ve taken pay cuts, we’ve taken health care benefit cuts, furlough days,” Alberg said.

But Governor Gregoire praised lawmakers from both sides of the aisle for coming together to take “tough votes.”

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.