Retiring Sen. Joe Zarelli, the top Republican budget writer in the state Senate, said Thursday would be his last day in the Legislature.

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OLYMPIA — The top Republican budget writer in the state Senate is resigning his seat this week.

Earlier this month, Sen. Joe Zarelli, of Ridgefield, announced he wouldn’t run for re-election, but it was assumed he would finish out his term. On Tuesday, Zarelli announced that Thursday would be his last day.

He says it was time for him to “start focusing on where I’m going next and to begin that journey.”

Zarelli led a budget revolt in the state Senate this year that helped drive an overhaul in some policies, such as curtailing early-retirement benefits and requiring new rules for balanced budgets. He has held the budget-leading role for the Senate Republicans since 2004.

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County Republicans in the 18th Legislative District will recommend three names to Clark and Cowlitz county commissioners, who will ultimately appoint a replacement from that list to fill out Zarelli’s term through Dec. 6. Under the state constitution, if a state lawmaker resigns before his or her term is up, the general-election winner is sworn in once the election is certified Dec. 6.

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