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Sehlin gets key assignment

"He may be entering the state Legislature as a freshman in January, but Representative-elect Barry Sehlin brings along a reputation that has already earned him a post as co-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. The appointment will give the Oak Harbor Republican a controlling interest in how the state spends its money.Sehlin defeated incumbent South Whidbey Democrat Dave Anderson in the November election. His win marked a return to politics for Sehlin, who had served three terms in the Legislature before voluntarily stepping down at the end of 1998. At that time he held the position of chairman of the Capital Budget Committee.The state House is split evenly between Republicans and Democrat, with 49 seats held by each party. As a result, Sehlin will share the appropriations chairmanship with Rep. Helen Sommers, a Seattle Democrat.During his campaign, Sehlin called himself a team player and a consensus builder who would get things done. But faced with a $1 billion budget shortfall, taxpayer unrest and voter-backed initiatives calling for increased education spending, Sehlin said this week that putting together a budget both parties can agree on will be a worthwhile challenge.Finding common ground will require cooperation and commitment from both sides of the aisle to bridge partisan differences, he said in a prepared statement. Despite his call for bipartisanship, however, Sehlin also took the opportunity this week to point out the differences between his position and that of Democratic Gov. Gary Locke with regards to amending the Initiative 601 spending limit. I-601 currently puts a lid on state expenditures. Locke has stated that he believes voters intended for the limit to be raised when they approved two new education spending initiatives in November. Sehlin said he thinks that if that was the intent, the initiative writers would have specifically stated so in the ballot measure.Sehlin will officially take office Jan. 8. "

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