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Posts tagged: Spokane med school

Gregoire to sign capital budget today

OLYMPIA — The Capital Projects budget, which contains about $1 billion in new projects around the state, is scheduled to be signed this afternoon by Gov. Chris Gregoire.

For certain segments of the Spokane population, this is the document most watched over and lobbied for during the late regular and special sessions. That's because it contains about $37 million for the second half of construction on the Washington State University-Spokane Biomedical and Health Sciences Building, the project many people just short-hand as “the med school.”

Naturally, that's not the only project in the Capital Budget for the Spokane area. We'll have a more complete list this afternoon, after the gov puts her autograph on the bill.

Special Session: New House budget may not have the votes

OLYMPIA — House Democrats rolled out the latest version of a general operating budget this morning, along with several changes to state programs, but conceded they didn't know whether this exact plan will break the ongoing stalemate.

“We actually don't know if we have the votes for all this,” Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, called it an effort to “get the ball rolling” and address concerns from Republicans that have been discussed in negotiations, rather than the final package of budget and supporting laws that will pass.

“It's mostly an effort to keep the process moving,” Sullivan said. The clock is ticking. The last day of the special session is Tuesday, and in between are Good Friday, the beginning of Passover, and Easter.

Hunter said he assumes there are enough Democratic votes to pass the budget in the House, but some of the other changes that the budget relies on — changes to the state's early retirement plans, reduced class sizes that are on the books from a statewide initiative but often cancelled to cut costs, new rules for balancing the budget over two and four years — will need Republican votes to pass. Although Democrats and Republicans from both chambers have been in negotiations for three weeks, there's no indication the GOP will sign on.

In a report on Northwest News Service, Joe Zarelli, the top Republican on budget matters in the Senate, referred to reforms the Democrats were proposing as “dust.” Senate Republicans, and Democrats who joined with them during the regular session to pass a very different budget, scheduled a press conference for 12:30 p.m. For a report on that press conference, click here.

House Democrats also said they would introduced a pared down version of the Capital Budget, which they refer to as the Jobs Plan, that is nearly $1 billion. It's that plan that has major state construction project, some of them funded by state bond sales and others by special accounts. On the list of projects from various accounts is some $37 million to complete the Biomedical and Health Sciences building at Washington State University's Riverpoint campus in Spokane.

Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, chairman of the Capital Budget Committee, said it was time to take advantage of low interest rates in the bond market to build the projects. All the projects listed would employ more than 22,000 people, most in the hard-hit construction sector.

But the Capital Budget is tied in part to the General Operating budget, which revenue projections and scheduled expenses say has a hole of more than $1 billion. Legislators struggled through the regular 60-day session and are 23 days into their 30-day special session, trying to fill that hole.

In past budget plans, Democrats have suggested an accounting shift that delays a payment to the state's school districts by a few days, moving it into the next biennium so it doesn't show up on the state's books. Republicans have criticized that as a gimmick, and the latest budget drops that.

It also does not have a Republican proposal to skip a payment to the state's pension plans, which Democrats have derided as a gimmick and did not include in previous budgets. Democrats are proposing one shift to the state pension system, eliminating for new employees an option for early retirement that was approved in 2007, allowing retilrement with a full pension at 62 for those with 30 years of service; Republicans also wanted another early retirement option passed by the Legislature in 2000; Democrats don't have that, nor are they calling for the closure of some other plans. That cuts estimates for long-term savings about in half, to $1 billion over some 20 years, but doesn't really help or hurt the General Fund's bottom line this biennium.

Instead of the delayed school payment or the skipped pension payment, House Democrats embrace a proposal by Gov. Chris Gregoire to modernize the system the state uses to pay cities and counties the money collected for sales tax. That shifts about $238 million into a working reserve, and boosts the budget's bottom line.

The budget has  no tax increases, and no reductions to tax credits or exemptions offered to busineses. It makes no changes to public schools or state universities and colleges, and drops a proposed 5 percent increase in Temporary Assistance to Need Families payments.

The package of reforms that will have a hearing this afternoon in the House Ways and Means Committee includes a new law that would require a two-year balanced budget and propose a way to create a four-year balanced budget. But that could fall short of a proposal by Senate Republicans and some conservative Democrats for a four-year balanced budget amendment.

Med School tied to “Jobs” package

OLYMPIA – Some $35 million to finish the Riverpoint medical school building may flow into Spokane as the top priority for the area’s business community finds itself on a list of projects to address one of the Legislature’s top priorities.
Jobs.
Or the project may find itself in the middle of a debate over the role of government in creating jobs. . .

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.
  

Gregoire doesn’t like the way House would pay for med school

Gov. Chris Gregoire congratulates Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, for sponsoring a bill extending domestic partnership rights to couples with domestic partnerships or same-sex marriages in other states.

OLYMPIA — A House spending plan that includes $35 million to start a medical school in Spokane is “a problem” because it adds more debt to the state than her budget, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Tuesday.

The House Capital Budget, released Monday, has millions more for construction projects than the budget she proposed in December but gets extra money from bond sales through what she considers a gimmick, Gregoire said. Instead of selling bonds only in the first year of the biennium, they sell them in both years.

“They have split up the capital budget over two years. That grows debt,” Gregoire said at a press conference. “That is a problem for me.”

If there had been room in the capital budget to spend money on the med school without increasing debt, she would have included it in her proposal, the governor added. If the Senate, which will produce it's own capital budget in the next week or so, finds a way to pay for it without extra debt “I'm all for it.”

Gregoire was also skeptical of a plan in the House general operating budget to sell the state's liquor distribution center for $300 million and add that money to general expenses.

“I've asked (the Office of Financial Management) to thoroughly review it,” she said. “It did not work in Maine. But I don't know why it didn't work.”

The sale would be subject to a bid process, she added. If the money isn't available, the state would be without the projected $300 million put in the budget, and would have to eliminate programs the House budget tries to save, she added.

“I don't want to start with criticism of the House budget. I think they stepped up,” she said. “But it's not and end (the session) budget. Some of it doesn't work.”

Gregoire spoke to reporters after signing several bills, including one that allows same-sex couples who have a domestic partnership or marriage in another state to be in a domestic partnership if they move to Washington, and another that requires all counties in the state to use all-mail voting. Of the state's 39 counties, only Pierce County still has poll site voting.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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