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Local Projects Feel Budget Pinch

Spokane’s requests for state construction dollars took a beating Monday as House Republicans released their capital budget proposal.

Items left out of the GOP’s 1995-97 capital budget proposal include the Cheney Cowles Museum, Spokane’s Riverpoint branch campus, the city’s proposed Pacific Science Center at Riverside Park and a proposed new state office building.

The choices were a result of a Republican pledge to spend tax dollars wisely and eliminate the “pork” usually included in the budget, said Rep. Barry Sehlin, R-Oak Harbor, chairman of the House Capital Budget Committee.

“We’ve scoured this budget very carefully,” Sehlin said.

Most of the projects were also left out of Gov. Mike Lowry’s earlier budget proposal, leaving little hope they will receive any state money this session.

The city’s fate at the hands of state budget writers is unfortunate, but not unexpected, said Spokane Mayor Jack Geraghty.

“I don’t think it comes as a huge surprise given the nature of what’s happening in the Legislature,” Geraghty said.

Other cities around the state also felt the sting. The Republican budget won’t give Seattle the money it requested for repairs to the Kingdome roof or to build a new baseball stadium.

Among the local projects left out of the GOP’s budget:

A request by officials at the Riverpoint Higher Education Park for $27 million to build another academic building.

The GOP and Lowry proposals offer only $60,000 for pre-design and planning.

At that rate, construction at the Spokane branch campus will be stalled until the end of the century, said Bill Gray, dean of Washington State University-Spokane.

Gray said the new building would allow the campus to use its own class space instead of leasing downtown offices. He criticized the GOP proposal for neglecting the Spokane campus while offering $9 million to the WSU campus in Vancouver and nearly $10 million to the Tri-Cities campus.

A $17 million proposal to build a new state office building on a site overlooking the Spokane River near the County Courthouse.

The new offices would house several state agencies that currently lease office space throughout Spokane. Lowry’s budget OK’d the project, but the Republicans don’t like it.

A state study predicts the new building would save money by consolidating agencies in one state-owned building.

“That would have been a good addition to the community,” Geraghty said. “It would have eventually saved the citizens money.”

But those opposed to the project argue it wouldn’t save money and could harm downtown merchants by creating vacancies in office space now occupied by the state.

A group of businesses that now lease office space to the state lobbied against the proposal.

A city request for $4 million to develop a Pacific Science Center in Riverfront Park.

Geraghty said the city will look to private or federal sources for possible funding.

The Cheney Cowles Museum request of $2 million from the state to plan a $50 million expansion to house a collection of Native American art.

There’s no money for the museum in either the GOP or Lowry’s budget.

Even without state help, the museum will go ahead with the project by relying on private donations, said director Glenn Mason.

“The dream is still there,” Mason said. “It doesn’t make the dream any less real, it just means it will go ahead in small steps rather than one giant leap.”


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