Washington House, Senate push rival budgets

In next step, state lawmakers will try to reconcile differences

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Both versions of the House and Senate capital budget proposals authorize the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to allocate money to replace Vancouver's Crestline Elementary School, which was destroyed by fire in February. That money would come from the state's School Construction Assistance Program.

Both budget plans include $500,000 for campus preservation at the Washington State School for the Blind in

Vancouver and $1 million for building maintenance at the Washington School for the Deaf, also in Vancouver.

Additionally, the two budget plans would assign $283,000 to the Washington State Heritage Capital Projects Fund, which would preserve the historic Post Hospital building in the West Barracks. That building was constructed in 1904 and 1905.

The two plans differ in other areas, though.

The Senate capital budget plan doles out $1.2 million to build a new Children's Center facility east of Interstate 205. The center is a nonprofit organization that provides mental health services to children and families.

It also would give the Fort Vancouver National Trust $1 million to split between a fundraising effort to acquire the historic Academy building at 400 E. Evergreen Blvd., and a project that would convert the mothballed Infantry Barracks into single-bedroom and studio apartments.

The House capital budget would pay for other building projects in Clark County, including:

• $7.2 million for the Clark County Skills Center.

• $1 million for improvements at the west Vancouver food pantry FISH.

• $1.5 million for a veterans housing project in Vancouver.

• $ 1 million toward a stormwater facility in Washougal.

— Stevie Mathieu

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 large-scale 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 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 today.

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.