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The New Jersey legislature has approved a 5 percent cut in the state income tax, the first step in Gov. Christine Todd Whitman's plan to lower the rate by 30 percent over three years.

The reduction, which was passed this month, is retroactive to Jan. 1 and will result in an estimated revenue loss of some $400 million for fiscal 1995, according to the Office of Legislative Services.

Annual savings range from $20 for married couples who file joint tax returns and earn $20,000 a year to $832 for those earning $300,000, the agency reports.

Lawmakers said they would not offset the revenue loss by cutting school aid, but many observers are skeptical, as the state supreme court may order more aid for poor, urban districts later this year.

Tax-Levy Bill Dies: A bill that would have allowed school districts in Washington State to pass special school levies by a simple majority vote has died in the legislature.

Although the House had approved the bill, the Senate could not muster the two-thirds vote necessary for passage before a legislative deadline earlier this month.

The measure would have made it easier for communities to approve local property-tax hikes. The state now requires that districts pass levies by a supermajority vote. Forty percent of the voters who participated in the last election must turn out for the vote, and 60 percent must approve the levy.

Nurses Mandated: New Mexico schools must have nurses on staff by July 1995 under a new law.

Following widespread layoffs of school nurses during recent budget cuts, about 45 of the state's 89 districts have schools without a nurse, according to the law's sponsor, Rep. Ramon Huerta, a Democrat. About half of Albuquerque's 80 schools have laid off their nurses.

Under the new law, schools with 55 or more teachers must hire full-time nurses, while smaller schools must hire nurses part time.

The requirement is expected to cost schools $2.7 million in 1995.

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