State House, Senate push competing capital budgets

OLYMPIA — The Washington state House and Senate are moving ahead with competing capital budget proposals similar in size but with differing priorities.

The House plan, coming in at $3.6 billion — about $130 million more than the Senate version — puts more money into the Military Department, environmental programs and higher education construction.

The Senate plan puts $131 million into a water-retention project in the Yakima River Basin — well above the $45 million the House proposal would allocate.

House Capital Budget Committee Chairman Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, said he is wary of putting more money into the large-scale Yakima water project, which could eventually total over $4 billion, before he is confident that the federal government is fully committed to it.

“It’s an OK project,” said Dunshee. “But it’s just a massive amount of money to bet on federal money coming that I’m pretty suspicious of.”

Another difference between the two budget proposals: The Senate plan shifts roughly $166 million in cash for school construction in the coming biennium from the capital budget to the operating budget, replacing it with bonds. The Senate plan would also move $76 million from public works projects in the capital budget to K-12 spending in the operating budget.

Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, the Senate capital budget writer, said those shifts were not made by him.

“It was not my decision to make,” he said. “I had to live with it.”

Dunshee said the cash transfers make for a Senate capital budget plan that is more austere in other areas.

“That causes them to have to do less in parks, less in colleges and community colleges,” Dunshee said.

The Senate budget proposal advanced from the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Thursday. The House capital budget is expected to move out of the House Capital Budget committee on Friday.

Among the projects included in the House plan but absent in the Senate proposal are $47.6 million to replace the Military Department’s armories in Puyallup and Olympia with a new Thurston County Readiness Center and $10 million for a new building for Everett Community College.

Dunshee expressed optimism that the differences between the two sides would eventually be resolved.

“It’ll happen and we’ll get out of here,” he said.

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