Budget looms as Legislature passes halfway mark

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- With the Washington state Legislature past the halfway point, the biggest skirmish ahead promised to be over how to close a several-hundred-million dollar hole in the operating budget. Democrats, who hold the majority in the House and Senate, say they will present their spending plan soon.

Beyond the budget, a wide range of measures like expanding abortion coverage to banning plastic bags to increasing teacher accountability have sparked debate. An attempt to put five-year sunsets on all new and extended tax breaks unless otherwise specified will also be discussed in the closing weeks.

Lawmakers hope to end the 2012 session by March 8.