The Heritage Center project is alive again, part of the capital-budget negotiations that will accelerate Monday when state lawmakers return for their special session to complete work on budgets and a jobs package.
The $119 million Heritage project would move the State Library back onto the Capitol Campus from Tumwater, where it moved in 2001 on what was supposed to be a temporary basis. The project would link the library to the state archives and a visitor center along Olympia’s Capitol Way.
Democratic Sen. Karen Fraser of Thurston County is making the Heritage project a key bargaining chip as she launches into negotiations with the House, which wants to use $10.7 million already set aside for the project for other Capitol Campus projects. But Fraser wants that money and a new $8 recording fee on secondary-market transfers of mortgages to beef up the fund by $2 million a year and allow construction as soon as 2011.
“The question is, In special session will it move?” Fraser said this week, pledging to help the scaled-back project along. “I will work to keep it alive.”
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The fee proposal, which is co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Jim Honeyford of Sunnyside, also would provide $1 million a year for county archiving. County auditors oppose the bill, wanting to see a closer connection between the fee and its use.
The Heritage project was first authorized in 2007, but the real estate and economic meltdown led to a drastic downturn in collections from new recording fees dedicated to the project, which led to changes in its tentative design. Two preferred sites are at the old visitor center or at the children’s museum building, both near the Capitol.
Democratic Rep. Hans Dunshee of Snohomish and House Speaker Frank Chopp don’t want to put more money into the project, and Dunshee noted that it still doesn’t have an agreed-to site. He and Chopp want to shift the funds and also raise recording fees for $100 million of new housing projects.
Dunshee said the housing funds could generate $400 million in local matches for projects that would put thousands of people to work in construction.
Dunshee said shifting $10.7 million out of the Heritage account into other campus projects also would “put the money to work” sooner, generating other jobs. He also said the Heritage project doesn’t have a definite site, although Secretary of State Sam Reed’s spokesman, David Ammons, pointed out that the visitor center site has the support of the State Capitol Committee, which decides the location of campus projects, and of local business groups.
Fraser and Reed say their project also would create jobs, and Reed’s office says sales tax revenue from construction would cover a doubling of rent the library is expected to face when it moves back to the campus.
Gov. Chris Gregoire says lawmakers can do their work in seven days, but once she calls them into special session it can last up to 30 days.
The special session is the first called to complete budget work since the 2003 budget crisis that saw a divided Legislature (Democratic House, Republican Senate) meet for 137 days. That was the year a tax package for The Boeing Co. also was drawn up, and lawmakers ended up meeting for a 105-day regular session, a 30-day special session, a one-day special session in June and another one-day session in December.
Lawmakers have avoided special sessions for seven years – except for a one-day session called to respond to a court ruling on property taxes in November 2007. From 1991 to 2002, lawmakers had special sessions in eight of 12 years.
Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688