Dear Friends and Neighbors,
With just over three weeks left in the 105-day legislative session, attention is quickly turning to the budgets. Both the House and Senate have introduced their respective two-year operating, transportation, and capital budgets. I am providing links to more information and some preliminary thoughts on each.
The House transportation budget appropriates $13.2 billion and focuses on keeping Connecting Washington projects from 2015 on track for construction. This is much different than the governor’s budget proposal earlier this year that included several delays on key projects around the state including the North Spokane Corridor. It includes additional money for US 395 safety corridor improvements, a climbing lane on SR 26 (Dusty to Colfax) as well as safety improvements, and continued funding for US 195 passing lane improvements (Colfax to Spangle). In addition, the multimodal hub in downtown Pasco will continue receiving much-needed funds and around $15 million is allocated for the Connell rail interchange. Other rail lines in southeast Washington are also slated to receive funding for maintenance, repair, and upgrades.
House capital budget
The capital budget is often called the state’s “bricks and mortar” budget as it uses state-issued bonds to fund long-term construction and community projects. The House proposal appropriates a total of $8.38 billion with $4.18 billion in newly-authorized bonds. It makes significant investments in housing, behavioral health, and school construction. Our district usually does very well in the capital budget as we have major learning institutions like WSU and EWU. Below is a list of projects impacting the 9th Legislative District:
For more information on the capital budget, click here.
Unlike the transportation and capital budgets, the operating budget is usually much more partisan. This year’s House proposal would spend $70 billion over the next two years. This continues several a trend of the majority party continually spending every dime that comes into state coffers from the taxpayers. As I said last week, state spending has more than doubled over the past 10 years, far outpacing the income growth of those who have to foot the bill. As economic slowdowns are looming on the horizon, I wish we could have taken a more conservative approach when developing the House spending plan.
For more information on the House operating budget proposal, click here. The chart below shows how and where this money is spent.
At this point, I enthusiastically support the House capital budget, am mediocre with my support for the House transportation budget (continues a Road Usage Charge pilot program), and firmly against the House operating budget. It spends too much and leaves too little in reserves. At the very least, property tax relief should be on the table instead of spending every dime.
Once the House and Senate pass their respective budget proposals, a conference committee for each will be called. There, a compromise budget will be hashed out and brought back to each chamber for a vote by all of the members. Stay tuned.