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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington lawmakers released drafts of their 2024 budget proposals on Monday. What could be in store for Spokane County?

The Kaiser Trentwood aluminum plant in Spokane Valley is shown in 2021. State senators have proposed the state spend $4.8 million from its capital budget to replace two “vintage” 1943 steam boilers at Kaiser Aluminum in Spokane. The project would reduce about 13,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution per year, according to lawmakers. If passed, the proposal would require Kaiser Aluminum to match every dollar spent by the state on the boiler replacement.  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review )
By Ellen Dennis and Lauren Rendahl The Spokesman-Review

State lawmakers pitched spending proposals Monday for projects that included a handful that would be directed at the Spokane area, including money for bike paths, upgraded boilers at an aluminum factory and help for communities damaged by wildfires last summer.

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate released separate proposals for both the state’s supplemental capital budget and the state’s supplemental operating budget, a road map for funding various programs, services and government operations.

This year’s proposals focus on education, behavioral health, health care, housing and homelessness.

The capital budget is for construction projects for local governments along with facility improvements for K-12 schools and state universities. If signed into law, budget proposals this year would go toward wildlife restoration, youth shelters, opioid treatment facilities and greenhouse gas reduction programs.

Lawmakers have until the beginning of March to finalize their proposals. Both the House and Senate will have a chance to amend the other chamber’s budget proposals before they come together to submit one set of proposals on behalf of the entire Legislature.

Here’s a list of some of the Spokane County projects proposed by legislators.:

Senate budget proposals

  • Gray and Oregon Road fire relief: Senators proposed the state send $3.5 million from its capital budget to Spokane County for help cleaning up after the fires in Medical Lake that leveled hundreds of houses last August and scattered toxic ashy debris across land and waterways. The Senate budget asks the state to spend another $975,000 directly on recovery efforts from the two fires in Spokane County.
  • New boilers at Kaiser Aluminum: Senators proposed the state spend $4.8 million from its capital budget to replace two “vintage” 1943 steam boilers at Kaiser Aluminum in Spokane. The project would reduce about 13,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution per year, according to lawmakers. If passed, the proposal would require Kaiser Aluminum to match every dollar spent by the state on the boiler replacement.
  • Youth behavioral health: The Senate’s operative budget proposal asks the state to spend $6 million in general fund dollars over the next two years on youth behavioral health facilities in Spokane and Clark counties. The facilities would be required to offer both inpatient and outpatient care and ensure a minimum of 65% of their patients are Medicaid-eligible. Treatment would be available to children with substance use and mental health disorders as well as sexual trauma.
  • Continued funding for St. Agnes affordable housing: If passed, the Senate’s proposed capital budget would continue sending money to the Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington for affordable housing developments. About $5 million of the budget this year would go to St. Agnes Haven, a proposed 48-unite affordable housing community at Government Way and Sunset Boulevard in Spokane.
  • Continued funding for the American Indian Community Center: The Senate’s proposed capital budget sets aside $1 million for Spokane’s American Indian Community Center, a nonprofit offering crisis intervention and case management for Native families and elders in the community. The center offers a host of resources including free computer access and weekly lunches for senior citizens.
  • Continued funding for the Spokane Civic Theatre: The Senate’s capital budget earmarks $1.5 million from state coffers for the nonprofit that operates one of Spokane County’s oldest theaters.
  • Continued funding for the Glen Tana Conservation Area: The capital budget would send $3 million in continued funding to the Glen Tana Conservation Area, a roughly 1,000-acre property just north of Spokane, to be managed by the Spokane Tribe of Indians.

The Senate’s supplemental capital budget would also fund two school sports projects: $150,000 would go to build the Spokane Valley Cross Country Course and $32,000 would go to replace the West Valley Centennial Middle School baseball field’s fences and dugout.

House budget proposals

The state House this year proposed spending $2.7 billion in its supplemental budget this year. Here’s a few Spokane-area proposals:

  • Emergency shelter for homeless people: The state House of Representatives suggested granting $4 million from Washington’s general fund to provide temporary emergency shelter for homeless people in Spokane. This amount would also cover the costs associated with relocating people from their current shelters to smaller or emergency weather centers.
  • Housing and shelters for homeless youth: Representatives proposed $1 million from the state’s general fund to look for and hire behavioral health support and services for homeless youth in Spokane. The chosen contractor must already offer permanent supportive housing and run a shelter that’s easy to access for homeless youth under 18 and young adults up to 24 .
  • Street medicine team: The House operating budget proposed using $3 million from the general fund to hire three street medicine teams that quickly assess and address physical and behavioral health needs of homeless people. The teams must provide mental health, substance use and infectious disease treatment and prevention, with at least one team providing these services to people in Spokane. Authorities are required to submit a report to the Office of Financial Management and the Legislature with recommendations of how to leverage this program to maximize federal Medicaid dollars and expand street medicine support.
  • Nonprofit for families struggling with substance use disorders: The House suggested setting aside an additional $1.4 million for a Spokane nonprofit that focuses on families experiencing substance use disorder, on top of the $1.1 million allocated in the 2023-25 House operating budget. Coming from the state’s general fund, the organization must have experience managing a family drug treatment and housing program for those struggling with substance use.

Transportation proposals

The state House this year proposed Washington invest $821 million to fund transportation projects, including buying new ferry boats for coastal counties, highway projects and road maintenance. The proposed supplemental transportation budget would also set money aside to fix river barriers that impede fish passage in the state. One Spokane County-specific project made the cut in the Senate’s proposals this year:

  • Sunset Highway bike path: If signed into law, $1.8 million will be issued toward the construction of the Sunset Highway bike path project in Spokane, a 3.2 -mile bike and pedestrian path
    • along the highway. However, if voters approve an initiative to repeal the state’s landmark climate policy, the Climate Commitment Act, this sum of money will be withdrawn.

    As of Monday afternoon, the Senate’s proposed transportation budget had yet to be released. Washington’s 2024 legislative session lasts through March 7.