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Legislature stacks budget for health, education and welfare

The Senate and House each released their spending plans for the coming year Monday, outlining how they would divvy up about $50-billion in state money.

Both budgets set aside the bulk of the state's dollars for health and human services programs and education.

The chambers dedicate more than $16-billion to health and human services, including money for medical programs for the poor, nursing home quality improvements and agencies charged with protecting the state's children and its elders.

Schools would get $14.8-billion under the Senate plan and $15.5-billion under the House plan.

One of the biggest differences is more than $350-million that Senate budget writers included in their plan that the House doesn't have to work with.

That's because the Senate decided not to cut taxes this year with the economy tightening. It rolled that money back into spending, while the House plans more than $300-million in tax cuts.

Election reform, which came into focus after the drawn-out presidential contest in Florida, would get $20-million under each budget.

The budget-writing process is still in its early stages three weeks into a nine-week legislative session, although crafting the spending plan for the fiscal year that begins in July is the only thing that lawmakers are required to accomplish before leaving town.

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