Olympia gridlock puts construction projects, jobs on hold

Lawmakers avoided a state government shutdown last month by passing an operating budget, but now continued gridlock has tied up approval of the state's construction budget. Hundreds of projects and thousands of jobs are in jeopardy.

Summer is supposed to be construction season, but not this year at South Puget Sound Community College.

“I think frustrating is a great word for it,” said college spokesperson Kelly Green.

Green said the school had to halt the renovation of a library because of a lack of state funding.

College maintenance and renovation projects are paid for with funds from the state’s capital budget, and for the first time in state history, lawmakers have not passed one for the current two-year budget cycle.

The proposed capital budget would pay for hundreds of construction projects including new schools, an expansion of Western State Hospital, and improvements to prisons and drinking water systems.

The two-year budget tops $4 billion and would generate an estimated 19,000 jobs.

Republicans in the Senate have been reluctant to pass the budget until Democrats agree to make changes to a state supreme court ruling regarding water rights. In what’s known as the Hirst decision, justices said counties need to conduct inspections before rural developments are allowed to dig wells.

Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, said she’s confident a deal can be reached on both issues, potentially by the end of the week.

© 2017 KING-TV


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