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Legislative gridlock threatens projects across the Greenway

Posted by jon.hoekstra@mtsgreenway.org at Jul 27, 2017 07:20 PM |
The Washington State Legislature failed to pass a capital construction budget, resulting in far-reaching impacts across our region. Vital projects are delayed indefinitely or could even be canceled.

By Jon Hoekstra, Executive Director of Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust

I’m disappointed to report that the Washington State Legislature adjourned its third special session in mid-July without passing a capital construction budget, a decision which will have far-reaching impacts across Washington State.

Those impacts touch nearly every corner of our state, including local schools, parks and trails, mental health facilities, and salmon recovery.

As noted in a Seattle Times opinion, the legislature allocated school funding through operating budgets, but failed to allocate capital funds to build new school buildings themselves.

Numerous conservation, recreation, and salmon habitat projects are also on hold indefinitely, creating concern and uncertainty about how our natural resources and public lands will be stewarded. Without a capital budget, Washington State Department of Natural Resources is unable to invest in vital forest health initiatives that could help prevent catastrophic wildfires, or in-demand recreation access improvements in the state’s new Teanaway Community Forest.  The DNR also needs the capital budget to fund conservation corps crews who do habitat restoration across the state.

Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program grants are similarly stalled, meaning significant delays for signature projects like a new trailhead on Cougar Mountain, accessible parking and restrooms at Preston Mill Park, shoreline restoration at Lake Sammamish State Park, historic railroad trestle renovation in Iron Horse State Park, and hundreds more.

Valuable work to protect salmon habitat, restore Puget Sound ecosystems, reduce the threat of flooding, and remove barriers to spawning fish is all on hold.

Many state agencies and community partners they work with will likely have to cut programs and reassign staff due to significant lack of funds.

The people of Washington are counting on our legislative leaders to make the investments necessary to ensure that all students get a great education, that people struggling with mental health can get the care they need, and that our valuable natural resources and beloved public lands can continue to provide benefits for every citizen in every community across the state.

Please contact your senator and ask for a capital budget as soon as possible so that the many urgent and worthy investments in our schools, our health care facilities, and our parks, public lands and natural resources get the funds they need to proceed.

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