Politics & Government

Inslee budget proposal would consolidate National Guard armories, fund projects at Capitol and Western State

A $3.8 billion construction budget proposed by Gov. Jay Inslee this month has money to complete a new state office building near the Capitol. It also proposes to build a single “readiness center” to replace two National Guard armories in Puyallup and Olympia, and it would add a new commissary and kitchen at Western State Hospital in Lakewood.

Of visibility to Capitol Campus visitors, the proposal also would demolish the former greenhouse or conservatory on the bluff edge over Capitol Lake as part of a utilities project.

Inslee’s budget documents say the hundreds of projects proposed around the state can produce more than 9,200 jobs each year. The proposal now goes to lawmakers who return to Olympia on Jan. 12 for a 105-day session expected to be contentious on most spending issues.

The biggest single outlay proposed by Inslee is $596 million of state money to match local K-12 districts’ school construction projects, some of which are needed to accommodate smaller class sizes.

It’s likely the Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled House will each bring different approaches to the capital budget.

One bone sure to be picked is the $69 million earmarked for the State Patrol’s so-called “1063 building” project, which is a new five-story structure for patrol administrators and a few smaller agencies on the edge of the Capitol Campus. The Senate balked at continuing the project in March, while the House pushed for it, proposing agency rents to cover financing costs.

Despite uncertainty, state officials decided to go ahead with spending the rest of $13 million allocated for planning and two stages of design work.

Republican Sen. Jim Honeyford of Sunnyside had not looked closely at Inslee’s capital-spending plan for 2015-17 as of Friday, but he predicted that the Senate will have some other ideas.

“I think it will be considerably different — from 1063 on to everything else,” Honeyford said of what his Republican majority caucus is likely to propose.

Another likely dispute will be over the governor’s proposal to put $70 million into Washington Wildlife and Recreation Fund grants, which pay for a variety of conservation and recreation projects around the state. South Sound projects include $2.5 million for the final segment of the Foothills Trail through the Puyallup Valley and $3 million to buy 220 acres near Maytown to help complete a 3,632 acre conservation network southwest of Tumwater.

Honeyford did express support for proposals to improve facilities at Western State Hospital. Inslee wants to finance seven projects worth nearly $42 million, the biggest being $26.8 million for a new commissary and kitchen.

The governor also budgets $1.8 million for the design of two new 30-bed treatment units at the Center for Forensic Services as the state moves to meet higher demand for competency evaluations and competency restorations. Another project would renovate psychiatric wards to accommodate a psychiatric intensive care unit.

Additionally, $1.1 million is earmarked to build a maximum security treatment area at the Child Study and Treatment Center, the state’s only mental hospital for children, which is on the grounds of Western State.

One project of interest to both Pierce and Thurston counties is a readiness center in Thurston to replace two old armories serving the state Military Department. Almost $7.9 million of state funds would help secure $34 million in federal money, spokeswoman Karina Shagren of the Military Department said.

“The idea is to build more efficient regional centers,” Shagren said, adding in an email: “In all, we’re looking at a $30 million, 86,000 square-foot facility to replace the Olympia and Puyallup armories. Both are currently still owned and occupied by the Washington National Guard — and will remain open until the units that currently occupy the armories can move into the new Readiness Center.”

Lawmakers previously gave nearly $3 million for the land purchase, but the first choice at a Port of Olympia location had environmental obstacles, Shagren said. A new Thurston site could be announced soon, and federal money is scheduled to be available in 2017. Construction could start as soon as spring 2019, she said.