Late Thursday, the House approved the long-awaited bipartisan 2017-19 capital budget. With $4.17 billion in total spending and $2.72 billion in bonds, the newly approved budget also leaves $211 million for supplemental capital budget planning in 2018.
Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, ranking minority member on the House Capital Budget Committee, was instrumental in piecing together the agreement that provides funding for key infrastructure projects across the state.
“We hammered out a good agenda in 2017 with well thought out priorities and financing for the state’s infrastructure needs,” said DeBolt. “The real challenge with the delay on the approval was to ensure everything stayed in place. We made heavy investments in education and boosted our mental health care net. With the exception of a few minor changes, I’m happy to say we were able to keep this list for the state’s infrastructure priorities in place. It’s a good plan for Washington.”
The capital budget plan prioritizes K-12 school construction needs with $933 million allocated for the School Construction Assistance Program. These funds will help address a record number of local school bond levy needs across the state. An additional $35 million is set aside for small, rural district modernization grants. Additionally, $860 million is included for higher education facilities.
With psychiatric wards consistently over capacity, the budget also allocates $136.5 million for community-based and institution funding for construction projects, including:
- Statewide investments in behavioral health community capacity;
- Security updates and renovations at Eastern and Western State Hospital;
- Adds 128 minimum-security beds for female offenders with mental health disorders at Maple Lane; and
- Funds the development of a statewide plan to inform future funding decisions.
“I’m especially proud of the help for community-based treatment,” continued DeBolt. “We need to provide better care for people suffering from mental health problems, and give hospitals more flexibility to care for them. These targeted investments will help our communities for generations to come.”
The plan also allocates $106.5 million for the Housing Trust Fund, including:
- Supportive housing and case-management services for people with chronic mental illness;
- Housing projects that benefit those affected by natural disasters; and
- Veteran housing projects.
Other highlights include investments in the Public Works Assistance Account, with $97 million for the currently authorized loan list, and $19 million for preconstruction and emergency loans. Additionally, $80 million is allocated for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program for critical habitat, farmland preservation, local parks, riparian protection, trails and water access.
The 2018 session convened on Jan. 8 and will run for 60 consecutive days.