OLYMPIA – A new medical school building in Spokane is not on the list of large construction projects being proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire for the next two years, a group of government and business leaders from Eastern Washington was told Wednesday.
Marty Brown, the state’s director of the Office of Financial Management, told Spokane-area residents in Olympia on a lobbying trip that the proposed Riverpoint Biomedical and Health Sciences Building, with its $70.8 million price tag, was a good project that didn’t make the list for the proposed 2011-’13 capital budget sent to the Legislature.
The governor’s long-term capital spending plan doesn’t have new money for a WSU-Spokane Health Sciences Building through the year 2021.
Community representatives said they were told the building came up No. 6 on a list that took the top five. An analyst at OFM on Wednesday afternoon put it a different way: Because of the state’s decreased debt capacity, the state isn’t proposing money for any projects in higher education above $40 million.
The capital budget is the source of money for major construction projects. Unlike the general fund operating budget, it relies on bond sales for the money to pay for its projects. But its size is tied to the operating budget and the state’s ability to repay the bonds.
Brian Pitcher, chancellor of WSU-Spokane, said he didn’t regard the news from OFM as a rejection of a Spokane medical school, because Brown described it as a good project. Rather, it’s a sign that local backers will need to work to build legislative support.
Rich Hadley, president of Greater Spokane Inc., which helped arrange the trip to Olympia for its chamber members and local government officials, said they will meet with legislators around the state to stress the need for more doctors to keep up with the state’s growing population.