By RACHEL LA CORTE
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- Washington lawmakers beginning a 30-day special session were met by hundreds of protesters Monday, and a committee meeting focusing on solutions to the state's budget woes was abruptly halted amid a group's shouting.
More than a dozen protesters burst into a crowded committee room and began chanting in opposition of deep cuts. They shouted in favor of taxing the wealthy.
Security escorted one of the protesters out while some continued yelling and others banged on doors outside of the room. Lawmakers eventually suspended the hearing, citing concerns from the fire marshal, but it resumed about 30 minutes later.
The panel was scheduled to begin considering Gov. Chris Gregoire's plan to address the state's projected $1.4 billion deficit. Gregoire's proposed budget calls for close to $2 billion in cuts, reductions to local governments and fund transfers, leaving $600 million in the bank.
Gregoire wants the Legislature to send a temporary, half-cent sales tax increase to the statewide ballot as early as March, with the levy pinned to "buying back" cuts that could be made to areas like education and public safety.
Democratic leaders in the House and Senate will produce their own plan in the coming weeks. A packed House hearing began that process Monday afternoon, though the meeting was disrupted several times with people inside the hearing chanting several phrases, including, "We will not be silenced."
At least one person was arrested, according to the Washington State Patrol.
More than 1,000 people from various groups, including Occupy Olympia, rallied at the Capitol to protest proposed cuts to state programs. Hundreds gathered on the Capitol steps Monday, carrying signs reading "Save our Services," ''Protect Our People" and "People of Washington are United." A large banner said "Tax the 1 percent not the 99 percent."
Other groups crowded inside the Capitol rotunda, and a small group of protesters in the House gallery unfurled a banner over the chamber and shouted for lawmakers to tax the rich and fund schools. They chanted that the plan to further cut education will hurt families, children and teachers.
"It is immoral. It is illegal," they shouted. A few lawmakers watched the protesters while others ignored them. Troopers managed to quiet the crowd and escort them out of the chamber.
About 200 protesters, chanting "We are the 99 percent" and carrying signs like "They Cut, We bleed," later filled the Senate public galleries after the Senate adjourned for the day.
They also chanted, "You can't steal our future. This is our building. You work for us."
A number of groups also planned to hold a candlelight vigil at the Capitol on Monday night.
Outside of the building, Albert Postema, of Snohomish, was wearing a rope noose tie to signify what he said was a "collective economic noose around us."
Postema, a produce and nursery stock farmer, said that he went to his first Occupy protest in New York in September. He said he considers himself a conservative but is concerned about "economic and political corruption."
"The poor and underprivileged have been taking the brunt," he said. "How do you make cuts when others have been so greedy?"
Karen Washington, a Spokane home care worker, said she's worried about how cuts could affect her clients' ability to pay for medication, as well as their impact on her as a worker. Washington said that while the state needs to raise revenue, the sales tax increase proposed by the governor would hurt low-income workers like herself.
Washington said she hopes lawmakers consider other taxes, including removing tax exemptions for some businesses.
"It's not an either or situation," she said. "It's not sales tax or cuts. It's not education or health care. They have other options."
Rachel La Corte can be reached at http://twitter.com/RachelAPOly. Associated Press writer Mike Baker contributed to this report.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.