OLYMPIA — The state Legislature’s Capital Budget moved closer to realization Jan. 15, when a Senate committee approved a bill that allocates spending for the 2017-19 biennium.
The Capital Budget pays for state-authorized construction projects over a two-year period across Washington. When the Legislature failed to pass a Capital Budget last year, many projects that were supposed to be funded were put on hold.
Senate Bill 6090 authorizes around $4.2 billion in new projects for the biennium, nearly a quarter of which would go to public schools.
Much of the budget’s holdup is tied to the so-called Hirst decision, handed down by the state Supreme Court in 2016, which made it more expensive and difficult for landowners to drill wells for household use.
Although the two issues are not directly related, Republicans and Democrats last year were unable to come to terms on a Hirst fix, which in turn caused Republicans to rebuff attempts to settle on a Capital Budget.
Even with a newfound one-seat majority in the Senate, Democrats will need help from the other side of the aisle, as the passage of a Capital Budget requires a 60-percent vote in each chamber.
More than 20 people representing public education, natural resources, and government testified at a public hearing Jan. 11 in support of SB 6090.
Mike Hrachovec, principal engineer with Natural Systems Design, said his company is involved in river restoration projects across the state and was hoping to bring on four more staff members, but is now struggling just to maintain current staffing.
“If the Capital Budget doesn’t pass in two months, we’re going to be in a very desperate situation,” Hrachovec said. “There’s a lot of work we have to do to get people back to work. It’s time to get going.”
Walter Schact had similar fears regarding his organization, the American Institutes of Architects. He serves on the organization’s Washington council.
“The delay in the Capital Budget had a significant negative impact on the projects and on our firm,” he said. “We’ve already lost about 10 percent of our staff because there just isn’t work to do in the office.”
Schact said the institute works mostly on higher education projects, and that the delay of a single community college project last year has already resulted in millions of dollars in escalation costs. He said if the budget doesn’t pass, the firm will have to decide whether to lay off its employees or go into debt to keep them around.
SB 6090 is a step toward releasing Capital Budget funds, as the bipartisan-sponsored bill received unanimous approval in the Senate Ways & Means Committee on Jan. 15. The bill now awaits a signature from the Rules Committee, after which it will be sent to the Senate floor for deliberation.
Awaiting funding in Kitsap
Here’s what awaits funding locally in the Capital Budget:
- Islandwood Community Dining Hall and Kitchen, Bainbridge Island: $200,000.
- ARC Community Center renovation, Bremerton: $81,000.
- Holly Ridge Center Building, Bremerton: $475,000.
- Manette Park renovation, Bremerton: $500,000.
- Ostrich Creek culvert improvements, Bremerton: $4.68 million.
- Pine Basin Watershed storm sewer improvements, Bremerton: $3.88 million.
- Quincy Square on Fourth, Bremerton: $250,000.
- Downtown Pocket Park at Rockwell, Port Orchard: $309,000.
- Port Orchard Marina breakwater refurbishment, Port Orchard: $1 million
- Morrow Manor (long-term transitional housing for domestic violence survivors and their children), Poulsbo: $773,000.
- North Kitsap Fishline’s Comprehensive Services Center: $530,000.
- Peninsula Community Health Services, Poulsbo: $395,000.
- Poulsbo Outdoor Salmon Observation Area, Poulsbo: $475,000.
- West Poulsbo parkland acquisition, Poulsbo: $400,000.
- Kitsap Regional Library Foundation, Silverdale Library: $250,000.
- In addition, four existing or proposed parks are alternates for funding from the state conservation fund: Central Park, Bainbridge Island; Morrow Manor Neighborhood Park, Poulsbo; Silverdale Waterfront Day Use improvements; and South Kitsap Regional Park facility improvements.
— Alex Visser is a reporter for the WNPA Olympia News Bureau.