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Spokane group lobbies Olympia for medical school

Fri., Jan. 20, 2012

OLYMPIA – Despite the snow and sleet covering Washington’s capital, a Spokane delegation lobbied legislators Thursday for key projects and issues, including the completion of the medical school on the Riverpoint Campus.

A group of about 60 Spokane-area business and government leaders has been making the rounds for the last two days, getting briefings on general budget conditions as well as the capital and transportation budgets, and an overview from the leaders of both parties in both chambers.

Rich Hadley, Greater Spokane Inc. president and chief executive officer, said the group’s main emphasis this year, as it was last year, is securing state money for the Spokane medical school, officially known as the Biomedical and Health Sciences Building, which needs $35 million to complete so it can start accepting students in September 2013.

The Legislature funded the first half of the $70 million price tag for the building last year.

The project is in line with both parties’ push for a bond issue to generate more jobs and improved infrastructure and be “transformational to the economy” Hadley said. It is also “shovel-ready,” another element some legislators want, because it’s already under construction.

Also on the wish list for the Spokane contingent is more money for ongoing construction of the North Spokane Corridor, support for aerospace jobs and training, and opposition to any cuts to levy equalization, a system by which the state sends money to poorer school districts to address their funding disparity with districts that have higher property values.

The delegation started its visit Wednesday, when Olympia got about 12 inches of snow, and continued Thursday when it was covered by freezing rain. But the meetings with legislative leaders went off as scheduled and “they were very respectful of the fact that we’re committed,” Hadley said.

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