OLYMPIA -- A disagreement over how to set the state's debt limit could lead to billions in state projects, including the proposed Spokane Medical School, being delayed, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said today.
The House and Senate are at odds over reductions in how much the state can sell in long-term bonds to pay for large capital projects. The current limit is no more than 9 percent of the state's general operating fund can be devoted to paying off bonds. A Senate proposal would lower that to 7 percent; the House countered last week with a reduction to 8.5 percent.
Unlike the workers compensation system changes and the general operating budget, it shows no signs of being resolved. House Democrats have been talking about the capital budget as being hostage to Senate Republican demands for a lower debt limit. Monday, Brown made it clear in a blog post on the Senate Democrats' site that it's not just Republicans in that chamber who want the reduction.
"The debt issue is a big deal" to Senate Democrats, she said. They want to smooth out the volatility the state currently experiences, as it sells more bonds when economic times are good and fewer in a downturn like now.
"A full-scale capital budget is in jeopardy if we don't get an agreement on the debt limit," Brown said.
The state pays for some capital improvements for schools through revenue from sales on state timber lands. But most of the other big projects come from bond sales, and no bond sales means those projects won't get built this year.
That includes the proposed medical school at Riverpoint, "and lots of other things, too," Brown said.
Most legislators have something in that long list of other things that they want to deliver to the people back home. The Capital Budget projects might be even more important this year, several legislators have said, because the general operating budget is cutting progams