Senate Calls It Quits; No Capital Budget; No Deal on Hirst Decision

Republican lawmakers packed up and headed home from Olympia Thursday, leaving Washington without a bipartisan construction budget for the first time in the state’s history. Dan Frizzell has the story in this audio report produced by the Washington State House Democratic Caucus.

SULLIVAN: “We had hoped to pass a Hirst bill, along with a capital budget that funds tens of thousands of jobs across the state, funds our schools, mental health facilities, things that are really important to the future of the state.” [:11]

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan’s disappointment was evident as he talked to reporters Thursday afternoon about the path to the final gavel of the 2017 Legislature after a 105-day regular session and a trio of 30-day special sessions.  Most of the last month saw majority Senate Republicans boycotting negotiations on a capital budget that would have pumped more than four billion dollars into the state’s economy.  GOP leaders refused to talk about that traditionally bipartisan construction plan until Sullivan and his fellow Democrats agreed to an unrelated bill dealing with the so-called Hirst decision.  That state Supreme Court ruling essentially made permitting new water wells in some parts of the state much more difficult, and Republicans insisted on a bill that would attempt to authorize what the justices had just outlawed. Democrats favored a solution that they say would have prevented yet another expensive court battle, but were rebuffed by the Senate. Sullivan, a Democrat from Covington, hears the clock ticking.

SULLIVAN: “We had a proposal that would have allowed for a two-year extension on people getting water certificates and guaranteed those permits for landowners. That was rejected by the Senate Republicans, and as a result of that, the Senate Republicans have said they will not pass a capital budget.” [:17]

Estimates on job losses in private industry caused by the lack of a capital budget range from 20 thousand to as many as three times that.  Sullivan said he’s also concerned that without the billion dollars of K-12 construction included in the budget, the Legislature’s efforts to satisfy the Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling will fall short, less than a month after that problem had seemed to have been solved with the long-delayed passage of the state’s operating budget.  Now, with the Legislature adjourned, possibly until next January, Sullivan says he still hopes to renew talks with Senate Republicans next week, in an effort to find a solution in time to save many if not all of those jobs, allow rural homeowners to dig their wells, and sell the bonds that ultimately pay for the capital budget. In Olympia, I’m Dan Frizzell.