WA Capital Budget Writers Facing Unique Challenges
Lawmakers in Olympia have already been putting in long hours as they work to create the state's capital budget for the next biennium.
Twelfth District Rep. Mike Steele (R) of Chelan says the process for drafting the capital budget is different than Washington's other budgets due to its less-partisan committee.
"The capital budget is the only budget in the state that is truly bipartisan. So it's the only budget that the state's Republicans are allowed in the room for. So as one of those Republican budget writers for the state, we've been working diligently and putting in many, many hours already to try and get this budget negotiated and done on time."
Steele says there are some unique challenges facing lawmakers who are planning the next capital budget, including one which is demanding nearly a quarter of its total available revenues.
"Western State Hospital continues to be a major issue for us budget writers. To devote nearly $895 million to the restoration of Western State Hospital is an enormous challenge, when the whole of the budget is about $4.1 billion. When you take nearly $1 billion off the top for one facility, it creates a real challenge for the rest of the negotiations."
The restoration of Western State Hospital in Lakewood was ordered by a federal judge as part of a settlement in 2014.
Steele adds that Gov. Jay Inslee's proposed $4.8 billion housing referendum for money outside the state's debt limit is also creating a major challenge for the state's capital budget writers.
Steele is a ranking minority member on the capital budget committee, which includes 28 other representatives from around state, including 7th District Rep. Jacqueline Maycumber (R) of Republic.