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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  WA Government

Transportation budget signed but projects still paused

March 31, 2020 Updated Tue., March 31, 2020 at 8:59 p.m.

OLYMPIA – For much of the 2020 legislative session, lawmakers labored to find a way to revise the state’s $10 billion transportation budget, which had some major projects on “pause” because of a projected drop in taxes and fees.

Initiative 976, which voters passed in November but remains in court, could slice some $450 million from various licensing and vehicle fees out of that budget.

Although the money is still being collected because of a court ruling, it isn’t being spent but is set aside to provide rebates if the initiative is upheld.

Gov. Jay Inslee ordered a temporary halt to new work starting on some new phases of those projects, including the North Spokane Corridor, to give the Legislature time to recast the budget.

When legislators found ways to move money around among various projects and came up with a solution in early March they said would work for the next 16 months, they hoped the pause would be lifted.

But by the time Inslee signed that budget Tuesday, the state was in the middle of a stay-home order because of the COVID-19 outbreak and those projects were on hold. The pause will be lifted “once we can resume construction,” Inslee said. The state will need to take care of the ongoing drop in revenue next year.

Along with money for highways and bridges, the budget provides money for mass transit programs and ride services for seniors and people with disabilities; for a new class of state troopers; and to replace culverts that are blocking fish passages.

Among the other bills signed Tuesday:

HB 1590 allows a city or county to impose a sales tax of 0.1% to raise money for affordable housing projects with a vote of its council or board but does not require voter approval.

HB 1754 gives religious organizations more flexibility to host outdoor encampments, indoor overnight shelters, temporary small houses or other services for the homeless on their property.

SB 6212 allows cities and counties more flexibility to use money from an affordable housing property tax levy of up to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, to include homeownership, home repair and foreclosure prevention for low-income households.

SB 6087 places a $100 cap on out-of-pocket expenses for a 30-day supply of insulin for insurance programs starting Jan. 1.

SB 6280 puts restrictions on the use of facial recognition technology, including notification, testing prior to deployment and verification it is accurate for different groups, such as women and minorities.

    HB 2870 gives applicants for retail marijuana licenses preference if they are from areas that have a high rate of poverty and unemployment, welfare program participation or previous arrests or convictions for marijuana offenses.

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