Corridor funding a victim of transportation bill failure
OLYMPIA – There were some hits and some misses for legislation tied to Spokane in the 2014 session.
Many Spokane leaders hoped for more money for the North Spokane Corridor that would connect U.S. Highway 395 with Interstate 90. Last year’s House transportation package had $480 million for the next phase, and the Senate package had $790 million to complete the project. But the transportation package died without a compromise, and with it new money for the corridor as well as a widening of the road from I-90 to Cheney and some other local projects.
The relatively small supplemental capital budget, which pays for major construction projects other than transportation, died Thursday night in the Senate when a parliamentary effort to force it to the floor failed on a party-line vote. Among the projects listed was an extra $1 million for Spokane Valley Tech. Although Republicans said it was a procedural vote, Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, called it a vote on whether to spend the money on Valley Tech.
Innovate Washington, which started out decades ago as the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute, will stop being a state agency, turn over its Riverpoint Campus Building to Washington State University and be absorbed briefly as a program for the Commerce Department before ceasing to exist in June 2015. But Spokane legislators got a letter from Commerce Director Brian Bonlender not to siphon off any of Innovate Washington’s budget appropriation for other department projects and to provide money needed to secure federal grants for projects the former agency was seeking.
A change Spokane political leaders sought in the state’s port district law passed earlier this month was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday. It allows voters to decide whether to form a port district in one election, and then elect the commissioners in a subsequent election.
A bill that encourages state agencies to buy products that are free of polychlorinated biphenyls passed Tuesday and is on Inslee’s desk. Local officials and businesses are looking for ways to reduce the level of cancer-causing PCBs in the Spokane River, and one of those sources is yellow paint used for road striping. Agencies would develop policies with a “preference” for buying PCB-free items, but it wouldn’t be required if they weren’t available or cost-effective.