House passes historic construction budget to rebuild economy and invest in broadband 

OLYMPIAOn April 2, the House of Representatives passed its proposed Capital Budget, also known as the state’s construction budget. The proposal, sponsored by House Capital Budget Chair Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend), would fund $5.7 billion in local construction projects, including a massive investment to boost broadband internet access, helping rebuild local economies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We reached out to our communities and they told us what they needed,” Tharinger said. “This proposal reflects those needs and creates family-wage construction jobs in the process  education, housing and protecting the environment are all included in this budget proposal. Fast internet access is no longer a luxury. It is a basic service like power and water and our communities have told us they need access to fast broadband. 

The proposed budget (House Bill 1080) includes $400 million in federal funding for utility infrastructure investments like water, sewer and broadband service. It includes an additional $189 million for critical capital budget projects enabling work, education, health monitoring, and other items related to responding to the pandemic. 

Broadband: A massive new effort of $155 million in funding would help expand access to broadband internet throughout the state.  

Housing: $175 million is proposed for the Housing Trust Fund, $120.9 million for affordable housing and emergency homeless shelters, and $10 million for cottages. 

Clean energy, energy efficiency, and weatherization: $103.6 million is authorized for a variety of efforts on this front, including $21.5 million for grid-modernization grants for projects that advance clean energy and renewables, $10.8 million in grants for new and emerging clean energy technologies, $25 million for weatherization/home rehabilitation, and $5 million in new rural clean energy innovation grants. 

Early learning: A total of $48.5 million would go toward grants and loans for early learning facilities. 

Schools and colleges: Public schools, colleges, and universities will receive almost $2 billion in construction funding. That includes $969.9 million for local public schools, mostly in School Construction Assistance Program grants ($781.7 million) to build new schools. There is also $65.1 million for 12 seismic retrofitting projects at schools in very high-risk zones and $14.5 million in funding for regional skills centers. 

Public colleges and universities receive $978.7 million, with that funding divided between community colleges ($299.8 million) and universities ($678.9 million). The largest project is the construction of the Behavioral Health Teaching Facility at the University of Washington ($191.3 million). 

Behavioral health: $96.8 million is invested in community-based behavioral health beds, with $73 million of that in competitive grants for such facilities and $23.8 million for a variety of community projects to increase capacity for triage, crisis diversion, detox, adolescent services, and long-term civil commitments. 

Toxic cleanup and prevention: $249.5 million would go toward this effort. 

Recreation and conservation: The proposal includes $382.3 million for environmental protection, outdoor recreation, and salmon recovery.  

That is in addition to funding for the Department of Fish and Wildlife for fish hatcheries ($20.4 million) and hatchery improvements to help orca populations ($8.4 million). State Parks receive $56.7 million for projects around the state. 

Equity and opportunity: $5 million in grants are allocated for planning, technical assistance, and pre-design grants for projects that would directly benefit communities that have been historically underserved by Department of Commerce capital grant policies and programs, focusing on small, rural communities and diverse neighborhoods within densely populated areas. 

This is the type of funding it takes to put people in hard hats back to work, rebuilding our economy and our communities after this pandemic,” Tharinger said. “We worked hard to collaborate with communities to write this budget, and I believe that is reflected how the House budget funds projects to address many of our common challenges throughout Washington.” 

Senate and House leadership must now agree on a finalized budget. 

Full details about the budget are available here: 

For project lists and maps, go here: