Construction projects paid for with state borrowing are popular with everyone, but that doesn’t keep them from becoming political footballs.
Senators who released a bipartisan construction budget earlier this week are threatening to scrap the bonds that it contains if the House doesn’t pass a constitutional amendment they favor.
House Republicans have also been using the bonds as a bargaining chip, as The Olympian’s Brad Shannon reported. They’re threatening to vote against them if Democrats don’t approve the Senate’s workers’ compensation bill.
Even a minority of lawmakers can gain leverage by holding up bonds because borrowing requires a 60 percent supermajority.
“It’s the one thing they have control over,” House Capital Budget Committee Chairman Hans Dunshee said, “so they’re thinking about all the things you can get for it at this point.”
But a move today by Dunshee aims to make it harder for lawmakers to vote against the debt. He merged the bond bill that authorizes borrowing money with the part of the capital budget that directs how that money will be spent. So anyone voting no could be accused of opposing all sorts of projects in their home districts.
Senators are undaunted. “They’re just playing games,” Republican Sen. Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee said. And Senate GOP Leader Mike Hewitt said if the debt issue isn’t addressed, Republicans are willing to oppose the bond projects and borrow no money: “We’re willing to walk away from everything.”
The authors of the capital budget, Parlette and Democrat Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor, say they are preparing a cash-only alternative capital budget that would borrow no money but still fund K-12 construction and some other projects.
That’s leverage in Kilmer and Parlette’s push to pass a constitutional amendment to rein in state debt. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and is waiting for action by Dunshee’s committee. Read more »