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Build schools? Get ready to build more.

The State House and Senate recently released state capital budget proposals, and both invest a record amount -- $1.1 billion – toward school construction.


The State House and Senate recently released state capital budget proposals, and both invest a record amount — $1.1 billion – toward school construction. Both budget proposals include about $4 billion total in bonds and cash for capital projects during the 2017-19 biennium.

“This budget proposal is designed with Washington students in mind, as it would invest an historic level of support for K-12 reforms,” said Senate Capital Budget Chair Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside. “In addition to education, we prioritize projects that focus on helping meet our state’s mental-health needs, mitigate the damage of environmental disasters and preserve and develop existing properties – all while leaving capacity in the budget to address unforeseen future needs.”

The Senate plan includes a total of $1.1 billion would be appropriated for K-12 education-facility construction, renovation or modernization. 

Major investments include:
•  School Construction Assistance Program: $779M in state bonds and $185M from the Common School Construction Account;
•  $17.5M for K-3 class-size reduction grants;
•  $40M for grants to small, rural school districts;
•  $23M for grants to distressed schools; and
•  $26M for skill centers.

The Senate capital budget includes $857M in total appropriations and alternative financing authority for higher-education facilities, including $493M in general-obligation bonds. Of the total spending authority, $428M would go to the community and technical college system and $429M to Washington’s public four-year institutions.

The state’s water needs are also an area of emphasis. The Senate plan contains $112.5M for flood-control and water-supply projects, and well as $164M for drinking-water loans and grants, $220M for the Water Pollution Control Revolving Program and $35M for the Centennial Clean Water Program.

Mental-health needs would receive $78 million in the Senate proposal, including:
•  $19M for behavioral health community capacity;
•  Up to $19M from the state’s housing trust fund for behavioral-health investments, to provide 100 housing beds for people with criminal histories, substance-use disorder, and/or mental illness, plus 160 permanent housing beds for people with a history of mental illness;
•  $12.1M for adding 18 beds at the Child Study and Treatment Center operated in Lakewood by the Department of Social and Health Services; and
•  $4.5M in capital improvements and renovations at Western State Hospital in Steilacoom to move towards increasing forensic beds over time.

The Senate budget also would address a shortfall in the environmental-cleanup account funded by the state’s hazardous-substance tax and fully restore the Department of Ecology’s previously delayed cleanup projects. It includes $43M in additional toxic cleanup and prevention, along with $80M for stormwater-related financial assistance.

Other highlights of the Senate proposal include:
•  $97M to fund the current Public Works Assistance Account list in its entirety;
•  $15M for Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) grants;
•  Nearly $100M for affordable housing, including $12 million for innovative housing projects;
•  $53M for Washington State Parks’ preservation and facilities repairs;
•  $80M for select Washington Wildlife Recreation Program projects; and
•  $15M for forest-hazard reduction.

The Senate proposal (SB 5086) passed unanimously out of the Senate on March 30. The House version (HB 1075) has similar total dollar amounts compared to the Senate bill but there are a few differences. The House bill passed out of the Capital Budget Committee on April 7 and awaits further action on the House floor. Differences between the measures will be ironed out by a conference committee before being voted on one more time by each chamber.

For more information, contact AGC Chief Lobbyist Jerry VanderWood, 360.352.5000.

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