Published: Mar 30, 2011 5:48 PM EDT
Updated: Mar 30, 2011 2:50 PM EDT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The House Appropriations Committee has approved the chamber's proposed $66.5 billion version of Florida's annual budget on a straight party line vote.

Democrats voted against the Republican-sponsored proposal Wednesday, citing sharp cuts to education, health care and other state services during the budget year beginning July 1.

Republicans said they had no choice but to cut because that's the only way they could overcome a $3.7 billion revenue shortfall without raising taxes.

The Senate's tentative budget is about $3.3 billion bigger than the House bill, but much of that gap is due to differences in bookkeeping.

Once the budget bills clear committee they'll be ready for floor votes in each chamber.

The Senate Budget Committee is taking up its appropriations bill on Thursday.

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