Legislature agrees on capital budget, Hirst still unclear

The State Legislature has reached an agreement on the capital budget.

Senate Republicans were holding the capital budget hostage until an agreement was reached on the Supreme Court’s Hirst decision, which impacts rural communities. The Senate passed a bill that would reverse the decision out of the chamber four times, but the House did not act on the bill.

All four legislative caucuses have agreed on a proposed $4 billion capital budget, but it is still unknown what will happen to fix the Hirst issue. House Democrats had proposed a two-year delay on the Hirst decision to allow time to develop long-term solution, but Senate Republicans wanted a full repeal.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before, but the stakes have never been so high,” said Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, chair of the Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development Committee. “Rural families will face bankruptcy and worse if this ruling is allowed to stand, and those who are not directly affected will see dramatic increases in their property taxes.

Senator David Frockt, D-Seattle the capital budget writer on the Senate Ways and Means Committee issued this statement following the agreement:

On Tuesday afternoon, Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate reached agreement on a full capital budget. This is great news for job creation, mental health improvements, environmental protection and investments in communities across our state.

But perhaps most importantly, this agreement will invest more than $1 billion in school construction throughout Washington.

We can vote on this bill tomorrow before the third special session ends.  I ask that the bill be brought up for a vote.  I suspect it will have unanimous or near unanimous support.  It is time to get to yes on all remaining issues and bring our work for 2017 to a close.

The capital budget includes

  • 75,000 jobs in construction, engineering, and natural resources
  • $1 billion to build new schools
  • $800 million for colleges and universities
  • Improvements to mental health facilities
  • Affordable housing funding
  • Projects to bring clean, safe water to communities

“The construction budget would build $1 billion in new public schools and create tens of thousands of jobs from Aberdeen to Spokane,” said Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Seqium, chair of the House Capital Budget Committee. “Those projects and jobs are especially important to families in timber and farm country, which doesn’t have the infrastructure and white-hot economy of the Seattle-Everett-Tacoma core. This budget builds that infrastructure—schools and colleges, dental clinics and mental health facilities, early learning and local water projects—so that every community in the great state of Washington has a chance to thrive.”

The current special session ends Thursday, but the vote for the capital budget is still not scheduled. Senate Republicans have also not released any statements on the agreement or the future of Hirst.

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