OLYMPIA—Changes to the state’s $4.2 billion construction budget will put more funding into building schools, mental health facilities and environmental projects, said Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, chair of the House Capital Budget Committee.

“Our state is growing rapidly because of the booming economy,” Tharinger said. “We worked together, as Democrats and Republicans, to invest in our public schools, add more beds at our mental health facilities and protect the environment in Washington state.”

The budget (Senate Bill 6095) passed the House 96-2 and will go to the governor’s desk to be signed into law once the senate votes to concur on the agreement between the two chambers.

Last month, the House and Senate approved a $4.2 billion two-year construction budget, delayed in 2017 by an unrelated water issue. This proposal would modify that budget and fund projects using new funds–$198 million in new capacity and $152 million from dedicated accounts.

The biggest changes include:

School construction—$47 million more to match recently-raised local funds and cover the significant cost overruns resulting from the delayed biennial capital budget, including $24.3 million for Distressed School grants.

Mental health—$50 million to address lawsuits and other pressing needs that require immediate, coordinated investment, including $9 million to convert 60 beds at Western State Hospital from civil beds into forensic beds and $3.5 million for 25 forensic beds at Eastern State Hospital. Additionally, there is $11.3 million for five community based behavioral health facilities.

Rural broadband—$5 million in new funding to boost rural broadband access in addition to the $5 million in the underlying two-year capital budget.

Protecting the environment – $11.4 million for new stormwater projects; $14.9 million for toxic cleanup and brownfields redevelopment; $120 million to address air pollution from the transportation sector (via VW lawsuit settlement); $5 million for state parks; and $10.6 million for aquatic habitat restoration projects.


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