Unprecedented investment for schools in Senate capital budget

The Senate released a bipartisan capital-budget plan Tuesday 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 would leave $41 million of bond capacity in reserves for a 2018 supplemental capital budget.

The 10th Legislative District would receive new funding for critical projects including $500,000 for the La Conner regional library and $1.5 million for the Freeland water and sewer district project.

“The heart of this budget proposal is focused on students, investing an historic level of support for K-12 reforms,” said Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. “In addition to new funds aimed at class-size reduction around the state, we prioritize projects that focus on mental-health capacity, and environmental protection and preservation.”

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.

The budget also would address shortfalls 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.

Mental-health needs around the state would receive $78 million in the Senate proposal, including:

  • $19 million for behavioral health community capacity; and
  • 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.

“The capital budget is an opportunity for us to prioritize these infrastructure investments that deliver meaningful projects in our community,” Bailey said. “Our budget includes $97 million to fund the current Public Works Assistance Account list in its entirety. It is critical that policies in our state’s operating budget are matched with the needed capital to make those policies a reality. I’m proud to support these significant investments in mental health, our environment, and our children’s future.”

Recreation and Conservation Funding Board grants in the 10th District include:

  • $755,000 for Penn Cove Farmland;
  • $415,000 for the South Whidbey Campground Project Phase 1;
  • $55,000 for Admiralty Inlet Natural Area Rare Native Prairies preservation;
  • $250,000 for Skagit River Delta restoration;
  • $1,090,000 for phase 2 of the Whitehorse Trail Development; and
  • $460,000 for Barnum Point Water access.

Other highlights of the Senate proposal include:

  • $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.