Let loose the shovels! Late Thursday evening, the Washington State Legislature passed a capital budget to fund new project work around the state, including major investments in habitat conservation and outdoor recreation, as well as schools, mental health facilities, and affordable housing.
State agencies can now embark on work to restore natural areas and build new recreation facilities across the state of Washington.
In the Mountains to Sound Greenway, State Parks and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will lead the charge in improving access to the outdoors, in many cases, thanks to funding from the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Program (WWRP). Projects include renovations on the Teanaway Campground, new trail development in the Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area, and the second phase of trail construction in the Raging River State Forest. These are many of the projects that you helped advocate for last spring.
WWRP, which provides matching funds for parks and natural areas, was allocated $80 million in the final capital budget, approximately half of the $162 million worth of projects requested by small towns and agencies around the state.
Under standard legislative process, the capital budget should have passed in the spring of last year. A stalemate over water policy left the state without a capital budget when the legislature adjourned last summer, a monumental failure with serious consequences for Washingtonians. Schools, businesses, and state agencies had spent months planning and preparing major projects to start in 2017, and were stalled when the legislature did not pass a budget. This avoidable delay wasted efforts and resources as planners went back to the drawing board with rising construction costs and constrained options. State Parks was forced to lay off 10 employees at the end of September and all agencies spent the year grappling with uncertainty.
In the first two weeks of the legislative session, Democrat and Republican Senators and Representatives established a compromise addressing the Supreme Court order on water use known as the Hirst decision. Within days of the agreement, both chambers passed the legislation to authorize the water policy and the capital budget and Governor Inslee has promised to sign the bills shortly. We applaud this return to bipartisanship and compromise as the foundation of thoughtful lawmaking. Working together is the only way to advance the shared vision of improving our home and environment in our spectacular state.