Senate capital budget would provide unprecedented support for education

Water needs, mental-health services and natural resources are also big winners in Senate plan

Today the Senate released a bipartisan, capital budget plan that would dedicate a record $1.1 billion toward school construction. Senate Bill 5086 appropriates $2.53 billion in bonds and $1.46 billion in cash for the 2017-19 biennium and the 2017 supplemental budget.

The funding proposal does not dip into the state rainy-day fund and would leave $41 million of bond capacity in reserves for a 2018 supplemental capital budget.

Sen. Jim Honeyford, capital budget chair, and Sen. David Frockt, lead Democrat for the capital budget, are the chief architects of the $4 billion proposal for funding capital assets like school-building construction and mental-health facilities during the 2017-19 biennium.

“This budget proposal is designed with Washington students in mind, as it would invest an historic level of support for K-12 reforms,” said Honeyford, R-Sunnyside. “In addition to education, we prioritize projects that focus on helping meet our state’s mental-health needs, mitigate the damage of environmental disasters and preserve and develop existing properties – all while leaving capacity in the budget to address unforeseen future needs.”

A total of $1.1 billion would be appropriated for K-12 education-facility construction, renovation or modernization.  Major investments include:

  • School Construction Assistance Program: $779 million in state bonds and $185 million from the Common School Construction Account;
  • $17.5 million for K-3 class-size reduction grants;
  • $40 million for grants to small, rural school districts;
  • $23 million for grants to distressed schools; and
  • $26 million for skill centers.

“This budget makes an unprecedented investment of nearly 1.1 billion in the K-12 system building new schools and new classrooms around the state in urban and rural areas.  This is several hundred million dollars more than any recent budget and the highest amount ever invested in K-12 school construction since the McCleary decision came down,” said Frockt, D-Seattle. “At the same time, it adds $55 million to the governor’s proposed budget to fund critical investments in our four-year universities and in our community and technical college system. This is a budget that lays the foundation for a promising future for generations of Washington students to come.”

The Senate capital budget includes $857 million in total appropriations and alternative financing authority for higher-education facilities, including $493 million in general-obligation bonds. Of the total spending authority, $428 million would go to the community and technical college system and $429 million to Washington’s public four-year institutions.

The state’s water needs are also an area of emphasis. The Senate plan released today contains $112.5 million for flood-control and water-supply projects, and well as $164 million for drinking-water loans and grants, $220 million for the Water Pollution Control Revolving Program and $35 million for the Centennial Clean Water Program.

Mental-health needs, another priority for Honeyford and Frockt, would receive $78 million in the Senate proposal, including:

  • $19 million for behavioral health community capacity;
  • Up to $19 million from the state’s housing trust fund for behavioral-health investments, to provide 100 housing beds for people with criminal histories, substance-use disorder, and/or mental illness, plus 160 permanent housing beds for people with a history of mental illness;
  • $12.1 million for adding 18 beds at the Child Study and Treatment Center operated in Lakewood by the Department of Social and Health Services; and
  • $4.5 million in capital improvements and renovations at Western State Hospital in Steilacoom to move towards increasing forensic beds over time.

The budget also would address a shortfall in the environmental-cleanup account funded by the state’s hazardous-substance tax and fully restore the Department of Ecology’s previously delayed cleanup projects. It includes $43 million in additional toxic cleanup and prevention, along with $80 million for stormwater-related financial assistance.

Other highlights of the Senate proposal include:

  • $97 million to fund the current Public Works Assistance Account list in its entirety;
  • $15 million for Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) grants;
  • Nearly $100 million for affordable housing, including $12 million for innovative housing projects;
  • $53 million for Washington State Parks’ preservation and facilities repairs;
  • $80 million for select Washington Wildlife Recreation Program projects; and
  • $15 million for forest-hazard reduction.