Gov. Chris Gregoire signed more than $1 billion in public-works spending into law Monday, including money to scrub the mold off of the dome of the state Legislative Building and for buildings on city-owned land at the Quixote Village homeless encampment in Olympia.
Bipartisan writers in the Legislature intended the public works projects as an economic stimulus that will jolt hiring in the hard-hit construction industry while also cleaning up polluted waters and building government facilities – including a $39 million health careers center at Tacoma Community College, where Gregoire signed the legislation.
Sen. Derek Kilmer, a Democrat from Gig Harbor who was one of the lead authors of the spending plan, said it would spur an immediate 18,000 jobs and 8,000 more in the long term.
“The state should make strategic investments like these in tough economic times, and it can do so without creating an undue burden of debt in the future,” Kilmer said.
Lawmakers pass a capital-construction budget most years but this time had to get creative with financing to take on more debt at a time when traditional borrowing methods are limited by lower revenue.
At the demand of Republicans, they also paired the bonds and cash with a constitutional amendment that will gradually lower the state’s debt limit if voters approve it.
REPRIEVE FOR RAINIER SCHOOL
The budget includes money to refurbish state-run living quarters for the developmentally disabled that the governor had planned to veto until the last minute.
Lawmakers pushed for $3 million for Rainier School improvements partly as a strategy to insulate the Buckley facility from future closure.
“Once we start making financial commitments to Rainier then we will get the target off the back,” Auburn Sen. Pam Roach said.
But Gregoire, who reconsidered her initial decision to veto the project, said the work wouldn’t preclude eventually closing the facility, as she has proposed.
“They should be part of our community, not sitting in an institution,” she said of the developmentally disabled.
Gregoire hopes that is what a study due in December from a legislative task force will conclude. And she said she will veto $600,000 that was put into the state’s main budget for studying future uses of Rainier School, another attempt to keep it viable. She said there’s no need for a second study.
Lawmakers such as Roach, a Republican, and Rep. Chris Hurst, an Enumclaw Democrat, have pushed to keep the facility open and say families should have the choice of whether to keep their loved ones there.
Roach’s role as a toss-up vote this year in the narrowly divided Senate might have helped secure the money.
It started appearing in versions of the capital budget after March 2, when Republicans took over the Senate budget process with the bare minimum 25 votes including three Democrats and Roach, who had been on the outs with Senate GOP leaders.
The work will pay for replacing banged-up doors and frames, floors and cabinets that have been warped by water leaks, and other worn parts of four to eight of the roughly two dozen cottage dormitories. The facility is home to more than 300 residents.
Compiled by Brad Shannon, firstname.lastname@example.org