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Senate passes $6.3 billion capital construction budget

The State Senate voted Friday to approve a $6.3 billion capital construction budget, directing funds to priorities such as broadband infrascture, affordable housing, conservation, higher education and behavioral health programs. The capital budget passed Friday is the largest in state history.

Sen. David Frockt (D – Seattle), the Senate’s lead capital budget writer, said the budget will foster an equitable economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic:

Now is the time to make investments in infrastructure that will jumpstart our economic recovery and provide long-term dividends for our economy for years to come. This budget reflects the input of communities across the state and will help build a stronger, more equitable Washington.”

Pointing to a $411 million investment, Frockt singled out expanding broadband access as a central aim of the budget.

Broadband is no longer a luxury,” Frockt said. “Like electricity, it is a basic necessity. Everyone in Washington needs broadband to connect to education, jobs and opportunities. This investment will go a long way to expand high-speed internet to underserved communities.”

On the environmental front, the budget allocates $386 million for recreation, conservation, and salmon recovery projects as well as $745 million for clean-water efforts and toxics cleanup. The new Nisqually State Park will get to dip into a $73 million pool for state parks.

Out of a $350 million sum directed to affordable housing grants and loans, the budget sends $175 million to the Housing Trust Fund. Another $120 million will fund a Rapid Housing Acquisition program that aims to speed up the process of getting unhoused people inside.

Amid what some are a calling a “shadow pandemic” of behavioral health issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the budget will send $428 million to behavioral health facilities, including $200.8 million for the University of Washington’s new Behavioral Health Teaching Facility.

K-12 schools will receive school $930 million in construction funding, including $42 million in modernization grants for small districts and Tribal compact schools. As far as higher education, $531 million will be directed to four-year institutions and $512 million for community and technical colleges.

The budget also includes a proviso ordering the removal of temporary fencing around the state Capitol by the end of May. The fencing was erected after the January 6th riot at the US capital capitol and breach of the Governor’s residence in Olympia.

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