Capital budget signed: Long-delayed funding freed for projects

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege

The Associated Press

and Peninsula Daily News

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee has signed both a $4.2 billion capital budget that pays for construction projects across the state as well as a compromise bill authored by a Sequim Democrat on a contentious water issue that had stalled the budget for months.

On Friday, Inslee signed the so-called Hirst fix, authored by Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, privately in his office, followed by public signings of the budget and accompanying bonds bill.

Before signing the measures, Inslee said the budget “puts thousands of Washingtonians to work, all across the state of Washington.”

“We know this capital budget restarts hundreds of projects to expand and improve affordable housing, mental health facilities, schools, water systems, wild land forest health and so much more,” he said.

The Senate and the House passed all of the measures Thursday night after reaching agreement on how to address a state Supreme Court decision known as Hirst involving the use of domestic wells in rural areas.

They also quickly passed the construction spending plan that includes money for major projects across the state, including affordable housing, K-12 school buildings, mental health beds and public work projects.

The action came at the end of the second week of the current legislative session. Last year, lawmakers had adjourned without approving the two-year construction budget after Republicans refused to pass it without legislation to address the 2016 Hirst court ruling.

Senate 6091, which passed 35-14 in Senate and 66-30 in the House, would allow landowners in rural areas to tap household wells — know as permit-exempt wells — while local committees work to develop plans for future water use. Those plans must outline how to offset potential impacts to rivers and streams from those wells.

The plan includes $300 million over the next 15 years for projects that improve stream flows and restore watersheds.

Van De Wege said in a statement that his legislation responds to the court decision in “a fair and measured way.”

“I suspect no one will be completely happy with this bill,” he said, adding that it indicates that the measure does a good job of balancing competing interests.

Van De Wege noted that passage of the long-delayed capital construction budget opened the door to numerous infrastructure projects across the state and the 24th Legislative District, which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and part of Grays Harbor County.

“These projects were stuck in limbo throughout 2017 and into the new year when Republicans who controlled the Senate last session refused to vote on them unless they won passage of an unrelated, contentious bill over water rights,” Van De Wege said.

“As soon as Democrats won control of the Senate last November, we made it a priority to insist on good-faith negotiations from all corners this session,” Van De Wege said.

“Once we took politics out of the equation and our state water needs came to the forefront, in two weeks we were able to reconcile a stalemate that had needlessly left all parties in limbo for months.

“I hope this approach can serve as an example as we deal with other difficult issues this session. These important infrastructure projects should never have been used as political footballs, needlessly delaying essential improvements in communities across our district.”

Projects funded in the construction budget that can now move forward in the 24th District include:

• $1.27 million for improvements to the Sage Arts and Education Building at Fort Worden.

• $1 million in Youth Recreational Facilities Grants for the Port Angeles unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula.

• $1 million in dental capacity grants for the Jefferson County Healthcare Dental Clinic in Port Townsend.

• $699,000 in dental capacity grants for Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics in Port Angeles.

• $160,000 for improvements to the Captain Joseph House in Port Angeles.

• $463,000 for the East Grays Harbor Fiber Project in Elma.

• $250,000 for the Hoquiam Library.

• $338,000 in Heritage Capital Grants for the capstone phase of the Adventuress Centennial Restoration Project in Port Townsend.

• $643,000 in Heritage Capital Grants to Rehabilitate Fort Worden’s historic warehouses.

• $107,000 in Wildlife Recreation Grants for Serendipity Farm in Quilcene.

• $524,000 in Wildlife Recreation Grants for Smith Family Farms Protection Phase 1 through the North Olympic Land Trust.

• $1.5 million in Wildlife Recreation Grants for Crowberry Bog Natural Area Preserve, located near the Hoh River.

• $877,000 in Wildlife Recreation Grants for Clearwater Riparian Protection Phase 3.

• $325,000 in Wildlife Recreation Grants for Leland Lake public access renovation in Jefferson County.

• $99,000 in Wildlife Recreation Grants for Dabob Bay Natural Area Lowland Forest restoration in Jefferson County.

• $649,000 in Wildlife Recreation Grants for Spruce Railroad Trail and Daley Rankin Tunnel restoration in Clallam County.

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