Politics blog

Budget negotiators closing in on agreement, but capital projects may die

Staff writerMarch 10, 2014 

Fuse, a left-of-center advocacy group, held a tongue-in-cheek bake sale for schools Monday outside the Legislative Building. The group was drawing attention to $59 million the group hopes to raise for K-12 schools over two years by ending a tax break utilized by oil refineries on waste byproducts burned to produce energy.

BRAD SHANNON — The Olympian

Washington lawmakers negotiating terms of a supplemental operating budget say they are getting closer to a deal, and one key lawmaker said a House-Senate agreement needs to come Tuesday if the Legislature is to adjourn on time Thursday. 

"We need to be done tomorrow,” Senate Ways and Means Committee chairman Andy Hill, R-Redmond, said Monday, adding he thinks it will happen. “We're down to few points of contention.”

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said parties are closer but a few significant disagreements remain. Neither negotiator gave specifics and asked about the status of proposals to raise $100 million in new revenue, which has divided the chambers, Sullivan said: “Everything is still tied together.’’ 

Other disagreements could doom a capital construction budget agreement. Hill and House Capital Budget Committee chairman Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, said it is still very possible no capital budget is passed this year.

But House negotiators may try to save a headquarters-building project for the State Patrol – which needs a proviso changing its financial terms – by adding language to the operating budget.

“It looks more like that” alternative scenario, House Capital Budget Committee chairman Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, said Monday.  Dunshee said the so-called “1063 building project – located at 1063 Capitol Way near the Capitol – was still alive despite strong opposition from Senate capital budget chairman Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside.

The project was authorized in 2013 with a strict limit on future costs for future tenants whose rent payments would be used as collateral to fund the project. But Dunshee says he made a mistake in drawing up cost assumptions by assuming too-low interest rates, which has given Honeyford leverage to kill the project.

Honeyford also is trying to move the project off the Capitol Campus and has language in his capital budget to spend $250,000 on a new predesign effort that would put the State Patrol project anywhere in Thurston County that is not at the Campus.

Hill as well as Rep. Richard DeBolt, the Chehalis Republican who is ranking minority in the House on the capital budget, said they think there is a real chance no construction funding agreement is done this year. 

If that happens, DeBolt said flood control projects in his district along the Chehalis River as well as others around the state would have to wait another year for funding. There also are mental health projects at risk.

Hill acknowledged that there is a move by the House to keep the 1063 project alive in the operating budget but said no decision has yet been made on whether to address it that way.

Under a design-build construction plan that began last year, the state Department of Enterprise Services has solicited and received three detailed proposals from three teams of architects and engineers bidding on the design and construction portions of the $82 million project. 

Those three submitted proposals are supposed to get a public review on the evening of March 19, but DES spokesman Jim Erskine has said the agency may have to wait until lawmakers adjourn before deciding whether to proceed or cancel the public event.

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