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Spokane Forced To Scale Back Goals Cost-Cutting Officials Likely To Slash Funding For Area’s Top Projects

Sun., March 5, 1995

Spokane is pushing big budget requests in a tight-fisted year.

The likely outcome is the city won’t get what it wants, said Rep. Jean Silver, R-Spokane, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The city wants nearly $30 million in design and construction money for the Riverpoint Higher Education Park in the 1995-97 state capital budget.

But it will be lucky to get the design money, and construction money is out of the question this year, Silver said.

City officials also want $4 million to develop the Pacific Science Center at Riverfront Park.

“We’ll give them some of what they asked for and they’ll do a fine job with it,” Silver said. “They always ask for a little more than they need, knowing they won’t get it all.”

The Cheney Cowles Museum requested $2 million from the state to plan a $50 million expansion to house a collection of Native American art, said Glenn Mason, museum director.

If the state provides the planning money, it will help the museum’s national fundraising drive, Mason said. But the museum may have to wait until next year, Silver said.

Others, including Rep. Todd Mielke, R-Spokane, chairman of the House Republican Caucus, said he’d like to see the planning money granted.

Silver said she fears a cutback in federal dollars will put more pressure on the state to meet basic needs. And the public has asked lawmakers to spend its money care fully, she said.

“These are all very good projects. But there’s no way we can give them all everything they want.”

It’s a particularly tough year to push spending for art, with two Eastern Washington legislators leading the charge to cut public dollars reserved for art in new state construction.

“There’s probably never a good time to ask for money,” Mason said. “I guess if I had my druthers, it would have been nice to pursue this 10 years ago when the feeling about public funding for the arts was different. But we aren’t going to let it stop us.”

Spokane Mayor Jack Geraghty said even in a tough budget year, projects like the Riverpoint campus and Pacific Science Center deserve money.

“It’s probably going to be lean and mean,” Geraghty said. “We’ll just have to see. But if they are going to spend capital dollars, education should be a top priority.

“The Riverpoint Higher Education Park will continue our efforts at economic development, and help us do whatever we can to support existing business.”

He argued development of the campus east of Division near the Spokane River also will expand access to higher education in Spokane.

Sam Smith, president of Washington State University, said the school needs a minimum of $20 million for construction and design of the second academic building at Riverpoint.

“We are paying for leased space now,” he said. “I would much rather see us move into that building so we can put that money into programs.”

Jackie White, the city’s lobbyist, said she knows she’s swimming upstream in Olympia. “It’s a tough year, period. One of the problems is there are so many new legislators, there’s a whole education process that’s needed.”

And many of those legislators campaigned against spending, which they dismissed as pork.

“They made a lot of campaign promises that pork barrel programs need to be eliminated, and that makes it very difficult,” White said.

Assistant City Manager Bill Pupo said voters didn’t expect lawmakers to sew the public purse shut.

“I don’t think the voters’ mandate was to do nothing, it was to be prudent, and not turn their back on important public projects.”

xxxx Wish list Among the 1995 legislative budget requests for projects in Spokane: $4 million for development of the Pacific Science Center at Riverfront Park. $27.4 million for development of Spokane’s Riverpoint Higher Education Park. $2 million in planning money for a $50 million expansion of Cheney Cowles Museum. Expansion would more than triple the size of the existing museum. Source: City of Spokane, Cheney Cowles

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