It’s time to pass the capital budget.
Communities across Washington ask legislators to pass the state construction budget
While legislators successfully approved new operating and transportation budgets during their recent session, schools, cities and counties across the state of Washington are feeling the consequences of legislators’ failure to pass a capital budget. The capital budget funds hundreds of construction projects and supports more than 19,000 jobs.
Senate Republicans are openly leveraging the capital budget until legislators reach agreement on how to address an unrelated Supreme Court decision related to water rights. Gov. Jay Inslee has repeatedly called on the Senate to de-link the two issues to ensure much-needed construction projects aren’t unnecessarily delayed.
Failure to pass a capital budget affects a wide range of programs and all of the state’s 39 counties. The budget includes projects to build new schools, update water treatment systems, expand capacity at health clinics, preserve historic places, reduce pollution, improve state parks, protect against flooding and wildfires, modernize mental health facilities, and more.
The budget has over $1 billion in school construction funds, including $20 million to improve distressed schools in Seattle, $15 million to replace North Pines Middle School in Spokane Valley, and $620,000 for upgrades to the Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver. In some cases, a delay in state funding is expected to result in increased construction costs.
There are capital budget projects in every county of Washington, and here’s just a small fraction of the more than 1,600 projects:
For more information about projects in your community, check out LEAP’s map of projects.
This summer, Inslee toured communities across Washington to see what’s at stake without the capital budget, first visiting the Fircrest School in Shoreline on July 21, the day after a fire in a laundry facility. The school won’t be able to rebuild until a capital budget is passed.
During a visit to Grays Harbor and Pacific counties, the governor met with local leaders to hear about projects in jeopardy on the coast, including $2.5 million for the Westport Marina, and $8 million for the Naselle Hatchery renovation project.
In Skagit County, the governor visited Mount Vernon School District, including Little Mountain Elementary School, which is waiting on a $25 million state bond through the capital budget to accommodate more students, alleviate classroom overcrowding and replace failing infrastructure.
In King County, the Willows Road Regional Trail Connection is slated for $1.44 million to build a 10-foot-wide bike and pedestrian paved trail in the Kirkland-Redmond area.
The governor also visited Federal Way to talk with their superintendent about a school merger that’s on hold until the capital budget is passed:
In Yakima, Inslee toured East Valley High School near Moxee and heard from Superintendent John Schieche, who said the legislature’s failure to pass a capital budget — after voters approved a construction bond to renovate an aging school — felt like a “slap in the face” to the community:
Republicans using capital budget as ‘leverage’
Senate Republicans have refused to bring the capital budget to a vote unless the legislature passes a law overturning the state Supreme Court’s Hirst ruling, which limits domestic well use in some rural areas.
Republican Sen. Jim Honeyford, chairman of the capital budget, told the Associated Press in July:
“We’re holding it right now… This was our leverage point.”
What community leaders are saying
Here’s what community leaders, news reports, and editorial boards are saying about that tactic and its negative affect on Washington:
“Unfortunately, Senate Republicans took a $4 billion capital-construction budget hostage until Democrats cave in to their demands to, in effect, overturn the Hirst ruling. That was wrong.”
“In a letter to Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, Schulte said the delay is very concerning, not just because of cash-flow issues, but it ‘has the appearance and effect of breaking trust with the voters and taxpayers, who approved a bond election with the understanding that state matching funds would be provided in a timely manner.’”
“We’re very concerned we’re not going to have the resources and capacity not only for fighting those fires, but keeping those fires small which is part of what our wildfire budget asked.”
“Schools aren’t getting built. Roofs aren’t being repaired. And wells aren’t being drilled. No one’s getting what they want. And the state’s residents aren’t getting the good government they are due.”
“The Washington Legislature’s failure to pass a capital budget will have major negative impacts in Pacific County and all around the state if some lawmakers don’t back away from the ‘game of chicken’ they’re playing… Around the state, the hit-list of projects that will be stalled without funding is long and crippling.”
“In tying the capital budget to the Hirst decision, Republicans played politics with unrelated funding that puts people to work and provides for important projects throughout the state.”
“We’re getting dangerously close now to have to start making some hard decisions.”
“Failure to pass the capital budget has real life and death consequences in our community.”
“It’s not just us, it’s other regions that are really dependent on having these funds available to move forward with their projects as well.”
“Mount Vernon’s Little Mountain Elementary School is so crowded, it’s adding a 10th portable classroom. And just when the district is getting ready to build a new school to take some of the pressure off, $13 million in state aid has been frozen in the battle over the capital budget.”
“We’re ready to go to bid. Without the money there is not going to be a building… It costs us and ultimately the taxpayer a lot more money to delay this project any further”