South County Politics: Legislators wait for capital-budget agreement to end special session

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Most local legislators are at home while the legislature’s third special session continues with a few negotiators working on a final capital budget.

Democratic State Rep. Strom Peterson says that the House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a capital budget but the Republican-controlled State Senate has held it up pending repairs to problems raised by the State Supreme Court’s Hirst decision, which protects water for fish and other water rights holders but has meant that some rural property owners can’t drill new wells.

The capital budget approved by the Democrat-controlled House includes building projects all over Washington, including a new roof for the Frances Anderson Center in Edmonds; renovations of the Edmonds Pier; the Edmonds Waterfront Center and waterfront-development project; an engineering, science and technology building at Edmonds Community College; and money for the South Snohomish County Community Resource Center in Lynnwood.

Peterson is vice chairman of the House Capital Budget Committee. He represents the 21st Legislative District, including most of Edmonds, unincorporated areas north of Edmonds and Lynnwood and northeast of Lynnwood, all of Mukilteo and part of south Everett.

Democratic 32nd District State Reps. Ruth Kagi and Cindy Ryu noted last week that the capital budget supports investments in clean drinking water, environmental programs like salmon recovery, improved mental health facilities and housing programs.

They said that the House capital budget includes $1.8 billion to build schools, colleges and universities.

“The capital budget is about building a better future for our kids and grandkids,” Kagi said. “The operating budget pays to hire the new teachers and college professors we need due to our state’s population boom, but they won’t have anywhere to teach if we don’t build new classrooms and lecture halls through the capital budget.”

Kagi and Ryu added that the capital budget passed by the House would create 75,000 jobs in construction, engineering, natural resource rehabilitation, and related fields.

Ryu said that House and Senate Democrats and House Republicans had negotiated the budget that the House passed 91-1.

“It is the Senate Republicans’ turn to come to the table,” she said.

Ryu also said that when the House and Senate finally agree on a capital budget, they would need to pass a bond authorization bill to pay for the capital appropriations before most provisions of the budget can take effect.

Democratic 32nd District State Sen. Maralyn Chase said Saturday that she expects Senate Republicans will eventually negotiate because the same agricultural groups that have pushed them on water rights also don’t want to lose out on major projects in the capital budget.

The 32nd District includes the city of Lynnwood and part of Mountlake Terrace, south Edmonds, Woodway and nearby unincorporated areas of southwest Snohomish County, the city of Shoreline and part of northwest Seattle.

State Sen. Guy Palumbo said Saturday that Senate Republicans are being unreasonable on issues raised by the Hirst decision.

He added that Senate Republicans now say that they won’t support a Capital Budget because of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s veto of a tax credit for manufacturers but said, “You can’t shoot a hostage twice.”

Palumbo represents the 1st Legislative District including most of Mountlake Terrace, all of Brier and Bothell, north Kirkland and unincorporated areas of King County between Bothell and Kirkland and unincorporated areas of Snohomish County north and east of Bothell including the Maltby area.

Peterson: Last-day decisions on budget can’t go on

State Rep. Strom Peterson said Thursday that passing a two-year operating budget just before a government shutdown, as happened June 30, “simply cannot be the norm for future budgets,” adding, “It is essential that both sides actually show up to negotiate so we aren’t pushed up against these deadlines.”

While revenue to pay for full state support for schools will come from a state property tax rather than a capital-gains tax or a carbon tax, the two plans that Peterson and other Democrats favored, he said that he didn’t believe that Democrats had surrendered.

“The property tax increase was a Republican plan, but we significantly reduced those impacts,” he said. “The budget also reflects our values by investing in our 1.1 million school kids, making college more affordable and building more access to mental health and substance abuse treatment.”

Kagi pleased that Legislature could compromise

Democratic State Rep. Ruth Kagi says that she appreciates that Washington’s legislature averted an end-of-June government shutdown, something that other states didn’t accomplish.

She noted Wednesday that the new budget increases state support for schools with money coming from a different source than she wanted.

“We faced a Herculean task, developing a new policy framework for fully funding our public schools and a revenue package to fund it,” she said. “Yes it took a very long time with a process that was not transparent and produced an unacceptably late set of bills but we reached resolution, which was not the case in 11 other states.

“I supported the progressive revenue package that the House proposed and am disappointed that property taxes are the primary funding source. Having said that, the House, Senate and governor compromised. The property tax is less than a third of what was originally proposed by the Senate, and we were able to pass three relatively small but important loophole closures.

“As I read about the eleven states that did not pass a budget by June 30 and the three that shut down state governments, it makes me all the more appreciative of the work done to find a solution, not stop the trains.”

She added that she believes this was an exceptional year, and legislators will negotiate budgets in the future long before the end of the fiscal year.

Dems endorse both Kilgore and Baylor in school race

Democrats in the 1st and 32nd legislative districts have endorsed both Deborah Kilgore and Cathy Baylor in the Aug. 1 primary for a position on the Edmonds School Board.

Kilgore, Baylor and Cindy Sackett will be on primary ballots in Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Woodway, part of Brier and unincorporated areas of south Snohomish County. Two will qualify for the Nov. 7 general-election ballot.

–By Evan Smith
Evan Smith can be reached at schsmith@frontier.com.

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