OLYMPIA – Construction projects in the Spokane area will get millions of dollars under legislation approved just before the Legislature adjourned for the year late Tuesday night.
Although most of the attention in recent weeks has been on the state’s operating budget, the Washington Legislature did have a few other tasks to finish before heading home.
There were bills that were tied to some aspect of the operating budget, a separate budget for state construction projects and a record number of vetoes to be overridden.
The Legislature’s approval for the supplemental Capital Budget includes authority for Spokane Falls Community College to obtain $19.5 million for a gym renovation and addition through a certificate of participation, a type of short-term financing. The state also will provide $1.3 million for improvements at Eastern State Hospital’s Eastlake facility, and $1.2 million for upgrades at Lakeland Village.
Also on the list of new capital projects is $500,000 for the Transitions housing project in north Spokane, which is planning 24 affordable housing units under the city’s cottage housing ordinance. The state money will be used for energy efficiency upgrades, Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, said.
“The need for affordable housing for low-income families in Spokane is acute and this project will be a creative and unique way to address the need,” said Riccelli, who said fellow Spokane Democrat Timm Ormsby took the lead on submitting the request.
Other capital projects include $376,000 for a roof replacement at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture’s Campbell House, $200,000 for a recreational complex in Airway Heights and $103,000 for an upgrade at the Court of Appeals building on the edge of Kendall Yards.
The supplemental capital budget has nearly $90 million in state bonds for government projects, with $34 million of that set aside for grants to build or expand facilities to accommodate smaller class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. It has authority for another $170 million for projects financed with other sources of money, most of them for public schools or public colleges and universities.
While that budget was the last major vote in the Senate, the House tackled another legislative task – the 27 bills Inslee vetoed at the end of the regular session in an effort to get lawmakers to come to a budget deal. The Senate overrode all 27 on Monday in about an hour and a half. The House, which votes by machine rather than the roll call vote required in the Senate, overrode all 27 in 22 minutes, 1 second, averaging less than a minute per veto.
The votes varied from bill to bill, with some passing by as much as 85-4, and others by as little as 77-19. But all were enough for the required 63 yes votes, which represented two-thirds of members present.
After the session ended, Inslee said legislators finally managed to “get the job done” after 60 days of a regular session and 20 in special session. That presents some worries for next year, considering they needed extra time for issues he described as “minor league compared to the major league decisions to be made next year.”
Inslee defended his decision to make good on an earlier warning to veto bills if a supplemental budget didn’t pass during the regular session. The night he ordered a special session he signed 10 that he considered important to public health and safety, but vetoed 27 others including bills on industrial hemp growing, cannabis producer services, the invasive species council and the apple commission.
All were resurrected by the overrides, including a bill that will eliminate the state’s wholesale vehicle dealer licenses. The Department of Licensing is concerned those licenses are being misused, and resulted in a Chicago company opening offices in Wilbur and Moses Lake for dealers around the country.
“We wanted to focus the Legislature’s attention on getting this job done,” Inslee said during a post-session news conference. Lawmakers were told overrides “would be fine if they got the job done.”
But Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, denied the vetoes had any effect on the Legislature’s action in adopting a budget.
“Each of the bills the governor vetoed represents real people, from those who made the effort to testify on behalf of the legislation to those who will benefit,” Schoesler said in a statement. “We couldn’t walk away from that kind of insult. The overrides were our duty to the people of Washington.”