Wash. budget shortfall down to $500 million

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- Washington's budget shortfall is down to $500 million as the economy shows signs of stabilizing and people rely less on state services.

The state's Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released its revised outlooks Thursday as lawmakers prepared to roll out budget proposals. The numbers show $96 million in extra revenue, which comes in addition to about $340 million in expected savings from less reliance on state services. The Legislature had been looking at a roughly $1 billion shortfall.

Budget writers still plan to cover more than just the shortfall, hoping to leave a buffer of about $600 million dollars in case the economy stumbles again. But lawmakers say the new benefits will help the state avoid the most draconian cuts.

House Republicans plan to release their budget proposal Friday while their Democratic colleagues are looking to disclose their ideas next week.