OLYMPIA—A possible state government shutdown has dominated the news for months. Now that a budget deal is in sight before July 1, there’s a different state budget that may not pass.
“The construction budget hasn’t gotten much attention,” said Rep. Cindy Ryu (D-Shoreline). “But it’s important because it builds schools, parks, colleges, and universities. And right now, it may not happen. If the Senate and House don’t act fast, construction jobs will be lost in every corner of our state, including right here in the 32nd District.”
Along with an operating budget, the Legislature passes a Capital Budget that funds local construction projects, civic works, and improvements to community buildings and resources. This year, the House proposed a new Capital Budget totaling $4.15 billion, including a record-breaking $1.8 billion to build schools, colleges and universities.
That construction budget also funds investments in clean drinking water, environmental programs like salmon recovery, improved mental health facilities, and housing programs.
“The capital budget is about building a better future for our kids and grandkids,” said Rep. Ruth Kagi (D-Seattle). “The operating budget pays to hire the new teachers and college professors we need due to our state’s population boom, but they won’t have anywhere to teach if we don’t build new classrooms and lecture halls through the capital budget.”
Jobs are also at risk if Senate Republicans continue to hold out on a capital budget. The capital budget passed by the House would create 75,000 jobs in construction, engineering, natural resource rehabilitation, and related fields.
Progress on the capital budget has stalled due to disagreement over a state Supreme Court decision over water rights called Hirst. Under the decision, which protects water for fish and other senior water rights holders, some rural property owners can no longer drill new wells.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have proposed solutions that would help these certain rural property owners, but no compromise has passed. Now, local projects are at risk.
“We worked to include more than $61 million in funding for important projects in the 32nd District,” Ryu said. “None of these projects will happen if the Senate Republicans continue holding up the construction budget.”
Here’s a partial list of those projects:
- $37.7 million for an engineering, science and technology building at Edmonds Community College;
- $200,000 for Fircrest School;
- $3.5 million for a health, science and manufacturing facility at Shoreline Community College; and
- $11 million for local environmental projects.