Next up: How state will spend your money

State lawmakers got good news heading into the home stretch of this year's 105-day legislative session: Expenses are down, while tax collections are up.

That means the majority Democrats in the House of Representatives will have $364 million more to work with than Gov. Chris Gregoire did when she asked the Legislature last December to approve a two-year, $63.75 billion state budget.

The House is scheduled to come out Tuesday with its own spending proposal for the budget cycle that runs from July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2009.

Budget writers for the House, the Senate and the governor's office have been working behind the scenes, but those talks began in earnest Thursday. That's when ChangMook Sohn, the state's chief economist, updated his forecast for how much money the state expects to collect in taxes and fees through mid-2009.

Sunday is the 70th day of a legislative session that's scheduled to adjourn April 22. Turn to Page A3 for a look at some of the issues lawmakers are dealing with so far.