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UDATE: Lawmakers pass $3.6 billion capital-construction budget and adjourn; $82M for possible new Olympia office building in mix

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on June 29, 2013 at 8:25 pm with No Comments »
July 1, 2013 8:19 pm
Sen. Jim Honeyford
Sen. Jim Honeyford
Rep. Sam Hunt
Rep. Sam Hunt

UPDATE: Gov. Jay Inslee signed the capital budget bills into law Monday.

ORIGINAL POST: The state House and Senate passed a $3.6 billion capital-construction budget on lopsided votes Saturday and lawmakers – who were running on fumes after 153 days – adjourned their special session at 6:08 p.m. Lawmakers had passed an operating budget Friday evening to avert a government shutdown, which loomed Monday if the Legislature had failed to pass a budget authorizing spending after  July 1.

Gov. Jay Inslee plans to sign the two-year operating budget at 4 p.m. Sunday along with a few other policy bills.

Republican Sen. Bruce Dammeier of Puyallup said negotiators finished their capital-budget work at 3:15 a.m. Saturday – which led to a scramble of paperwork to enable the floor votes late in the afternoon. That ended a 153-day run for the Legislature that spanned one regular session and parts of two special sessions. That makes it one of the longest in state history.

Democratic Sen. Sharon Nelson of Maury Island said in a floor speech that the construction package will produce an estimated 36,000 jobs over the next two years.

The capital  budget is salted with projects statewide – the biggest surprise in Olympia being $13 million earmarked for replacement of structures on the 1063 block along Capitol Way, near the Capitol Campus – plus $69 million in future financing authority. The $13 million money lets the Department of Enterprise Services start a pre-design analysis for a new state office building, which has been estimated to cost $82 million overall, according to earlier House estimates.

The proposed project would demolish and replace a parking garage and an entire block of buildings including the  low-slung structure formerly used by a children’s museum at 1063 Capitol Way. That site is  across the street from the Capitol Campus lawn at 11th Avenue and Capitol Way.

The biggest capital-budget outlay statewide is $135 million for the ongoing Yakima Valley water project. That includes a $97 million purchase of more than 50,000 acres of habitat in the upper Teanaway River, located just north of Cle Elum in central Washington, according to Senate Capital Budget chair Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside.

House Capital Budget chair Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, did not return a request for comment. But he had pushed for more funding of projects in the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program than the Senate had.

Environmental groups had sought to the habitat purchase, which is part of a larger goal of Yakima Valley farmers, tribes, governments and others to control water for irrigation and other purposes in the region. Honeyford said the Yakima water project has agreement from an array of interests and that its pieces  must move together at the same time to hold the deal together.

The Olympia office-building project and the purchase of a former Veterans Administration building in Seattle were among Honeyford said the Senate ceded to the House, which in turn had yielded to his  request for more money on the Yakima project.

Democratic Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia and others see the “1063 project” as a stepping stone project that would let the state relocate the State Patrol from the aging General Administration Building, which consultants say is too costly to renovate and has seismic vulnerabilities. That could let the state demolish GA.

Honeyford said the predesign money will provide information about building costs that will, in effect, decide if the project goes forward or not. “If it pencils out, they will build. If it doesn’t, then they won’t,’’ Honeyford said

“I’m skeptical (that) we need another building,” he added.

Honeyford also said he thinks the state is spending too much money on projects and needs a different system that relies less on members’ and communities’ requests and more on a competitive grant process.

Among the numerous  Thurston County-area projects in the budget:

  • $1 million for the Thurston County Food Bank to improve a warehouse and central food distribution center it has in Olympia’s north downtown.
  • $816,000 for the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.
  • $167,818 for the Capitol Olympic Vista Park on Olympia’s isthmus, far short of the $1 million the city hoped for as part of a purchase of land once slated for high-rise condos.
  • $241,000 to assist a Safeplace women’s shelter project.
  • $1 million for Behavioral Health Resources, a nonprofit mental-health agency that is buying space for its Olympia operations.
  • $7.3 million for a Deschutes watershed center at Pioneer Park in Tumwater.
  • $2 million for a Port of Olympia pollution remediation project and another $400,000 for a toxics cleanup project at the Reliable Steel property along Olympia’s West Bay Drive. Funds are through the Department of Ecology.
  • $2.8 million toward the Thurston County Readiness Center, a Military Department project that eventually replaces armories in Olympia and Puyallup with a single modernized facility.
  • $5 million for South Puget Sound Community College to renovate Rowe Six buildings it purchased in downtown Lacey for a new branch campus.
  • $1 million the Yelm Community Center.

Among Pierce County projects is:

  • $23.8 million for the Bates Technical College for a communications and technology center.
  • $11.6 million for another phase of the Pierce County Skills Center that teaches vocational skills to high school students in Frederickson.
  • $2 million construction grant for the Tacoma Art Museum and $1.3 million for the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts.
  • $15.67 million for ASARCO smelter plume cleanup and $5 million for the Point Defiance Trail, both through the Department of Ecology.
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