Capital Budget Update: light at the end of the tunnel

By November 28, 2017 News No Comments

Senator-elect Manka Dhingra’s election victory in the 45th District (Woodinville, Duvall, and parts of Kirkland, Redmond, and Sammamish) means that the Washington State Senate will switch to Democratic control beginning Nov. 28, when the election results are certified.  Sen.-elect Dhingra will take office that day because her seat is technically open as a result of the death of her predecessor (Dino Rossi stepped in as the interim senator).

What this means for the state’s capital budget depends, as everything does, on politics.  Governor Inslee can call a special session as soon as Nov. 29 and the Democratically-controlled House and Senate can pass the budget on party line votes.  However, approximately 60 percent of the funding for the capital budget is in the form of bonds, and those require a two-thirds vote to be approved.  This means that the Democrats would need five Republican senators to vote in favor of the bonding mechanism in order to fully fund the budget as originally proposed earlier this year.  Securing five Republican votes is unlikely, however, because the Republicans continue to require a resolution to the Hirst Supreme Court case on rural water rights before agreeing to pass the capital budget –  a position on which the Republicans have been unified all year.  AIA does not expect the Republicans to back down; without the capital budget in play they would lose all leverage on Hirst and would not be able to reach a permanent solution to the issue of permitting rural wells.

While the Democrats now hold more cards, a compromise solution is still needed to end the impasse.  We have been hearing from legislators that Hirst negotiators from both parties have reached a tentative solution, but it is unclear if it will be good enough to satisfy enough legislators to pass both the compromise and the Capital Budget.  If it is, Gov. Inslee will likely call a special session in the two weeks after Thanksgiving.  Legislators would need to return to Olympia to cast votes on both the Hirst fix and the Capital Budget.  If the compromise does not hold, or if too many legislators are out of town for the holidays, the votes would most likely happen in the first 1-2 days or the 2018 session.  Next year’s session is a short one and legislators would like to get this out of the way as soon as possible to concentrate on new work.  Even if the capital budget is passed in full, a supplemental budget will be eventually be needed to account for higher construction costs as a result of inflation and increased labor costs.

AIA Washington Council has continued to weigh in with legislators by pressuring Republicans to support the capital budget and Democrats to work towards a resolution on Hirst.  Just prior to Thanksgiving, AIA Washington Council sent a letter to each of the four party leaders (Sens. Sharon Nelson and Mark Schoesler and Reps. Frank Chopp and Dan Kristiansen) asking them to put aside intra-party fighting and support the emerging compromise.

On water rights, Republicans want a permanent solution that allows for rural development while Democrats have pushed for a two-year amnesty on well permits during which time a final solution may be negotiated.  Much of the disagreement is over the role of mitigation projects related to water use (whether they should be required, at what level – regional vs. well by well – who makes the decisions, etc.), and the role of the tribes in any approval process.  Each party has consistently blamed the other for political intransigence.  The compromise language we have heard about in the last two weeks anecdotally includes (depending on who you talk to) either reducing the number of watersheds impacted by Hirst or exempting a significant number of wells as de minimis in their use of water AND eliminating the tribal veto while allowing the tribes to remain as stakeholders in negotiations over key watersheds.  Authority for mitigation and determining the impact of development would either revert to the Dept. of Ecology (where it was previously) or allow individual counties to make decisions using Ecology’s criteria.  One item of note: the compromise language must also be agreed to by the Governor’s office before being referred back to the Legislature.

For additional background on Hirst, click here.

Questions or comments: contact Kirsten Smith, Manager of Advocacy, at



Just a reminder that AIA Washington Council’s Capitol Connections event will take place on Thursday, January 18.  This is your chance to join your colleagues in Olympia, learn about Council.Memberspublic policy issues facing the profession, and meet with your personal legislators.  If the Capital Budget has not passed, we will be talking to legislators about that in addition to this year’s focus area, affordable housing.

Sign up here:

There is a $45 cost to register for the conference but all travel costs will be reimbursed, including airfare from eastern Washington.  We are looking into arranging transportation to and from key cities and the airport.  Whether that is feasible will depend on when people are able to travel and how many want to participate.

Please sign up early so we can make sure to get an appointment with your representatives and arrange for ground transportation.

Questions: contact Executive Director Jeffrey Hamlett at

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