Senate majority spends same timber revenues twice

The Senate Majority Coalition is counting on roughly $170 million earned from timber sales on public lands to help balance the next state budget.

But it turns out the Senate already earmarked those same dollars for building schools. That happened in February when the Senate overwhelmingly approved a $475 million school construction bill.

“They would be spending the cash twice,” said Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, who is chairman of the capital budget panel.

Timber revenues are tallied as part of the Capital Budget and historically designated for school construction. The Senate majority wants to include almost $170 million in timber dollars as part of a larger transfer from the capital budget into its proposed operating budget.

Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, the Senate’s chief budget writer, didn’t realize the miscue in the 400-page spending plan he released this week. Once he confirmed it, he said it’s a fixable problem.

If the House did pass and the governor signed the school construction bill, the Senate would need to pass another bill to amend it so the money isn’t tapped twice. He said he’s counting on it for the operating budget and didn’t speculate on what that would mean for school construction.

Dunshee has scheduled a hearing April 12 on the Senate bill.

Hill said he, or another member of the coalition, will be in touch with House leadership on the situation before then.

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