In case you missed it: Gov. Chris Gregoire on the threat to veto if lawmakers don’t make progress

By | March 16, 2012 | 0 Comments

Yesterday, Gov. Chris Gregoire had some harsh words for legislators: Get some work done or she’ll start vetoing their bills. Here’s the full video:

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Inslee, McKenna weigh in on the new Republican budget proposal

By | March 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

Republicans and three Democrats released a new budget proposal this morning that they say offers a compromise by not making any cuts to education, while offering up a number of reforms, including one that would skip a payment to the pension system.

Senate Democratic leaders responded by saying it takes a step closer to their priorities — particularly in regard to education — but it makes too deep of cuts to the safety net, including eliminating food assistance and Disability Lifeline. At a bill signing in the afternoon, Gov. Chris Gregoire said she is mad — and vetoes could be on the way if lawmakers don’t come to a budget agreement.

And now, the two candidates running to replace Gregoire in the governor’s race this fall are weighing in. Click through to read statements from each: (more…)

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Governor: 25, 50 and 1 will get us home — vetoes are in store if lawmakers don’t make progress

By | March 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire is mad — and she’s ready to do whatever it takes to get lawmakers to pass a budget. She said as much while answering media questions after her afternoon bill signing. She said the budget released this morning will not get the Legislature out of special session. “Twenty-five, 50 and 1,” she said, referring to the vote count in the Senate, House and her signature needed to end special session.

She said she negotiated with legislators this morning before the press conference and Republicans didn’t bring up some of the budget ideas they presented just an hour later. She called the press conference to unveil the budget “theatrical.”

“They did, under sufficient pressure, move to the Democrats’ position” of no cuts to education, she said. “Yay.” She said this morning she told lawmakers that she would not sign a budget that has more than $80 million in reversions, which she said spends the same dollar three times. She said the budget unveiled this morning has about twice that amount.

She said the budget has “still got the myth of we’re going to skip a payment … you skip a payment in pensions and it costs you about $400 million in the long haul. Last time I checked: gimmick.” She said she’s happy that the budget doesn’t cut K-12 or higher education.

“There has to be trust in the room. This does not advance trust in the room,” she said. She added that budget negotiators are scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. tomorrow. “If they don’t get something done here, I’m going to start trickling out vetoes. Maybe that will get their attention.”

A reporter commented that the Governor appeared mad. “I am mad,” she said, adding that legislators need to stop negotiating in the press, “get your jobs done and then go home,” she said.

“I’m not putting fault on anybody… I’ve been restrained, I have been complimentary, I have negotiated in good faith. Time’s up,” she said. “My frustration level is as high as it gets.” She said “suddenly putting charter schools” in their latest proposal is not helpful. “I promised to veto it… get over it.”

UPDATED: Senate Republicans and three Democrats propose new budget compromise

By | March 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

Senate Republicans and three moderate Democrats revealed a budget proposal this morning that they say offers a compromise. The proposal does not contain any cuts to K-12 or higher education, although it still skips a $140 million pension payment that has been widely opposed by Democrats.

Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, said they listened to concerns and the proposal “buys back” the cuts to education by leaving less money in reserves and other savings. The budget that Republicans previously proposed cut $44 million to K-12 and $30 million to higher education.

“It can receive broad-based support and bring special session to a close,” said Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup. Kastama was one of three Democrats — along with Sens. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch and Rodney Tom of Bellevue — who helped the Republicans seize control of the Senate earlier this month and pass a budget using a procedural maneuver. They joined seven Republicans at Thursday’s press conference.

Kastama said the budget includes a number of reforms: a constitutional debt limit, a 4-year balanced budget requirement, and pension reform. It also includes proposals to reform healthcare for public school employees.

The pension proposal skips a $140 million payment and ends early retirement for state employees. “The skipping of the payment is joined at the hip with pension reform,” and will save the state $2 billion over the next 25 years, said Zarelli.

The budget also includes a bill that would create 10 charter schools — a move that Sen. Rodney Tom said focuses only on the state’s worst-performing schools.

Senate Republican Leader Mike Hewitt said after passing the budget on the Senate floor, they were essentially ignored by the majority party for six days — “as if there were total denial.” Until a meeting of the four budget writers this morning, Hewitt said there has not been any discussion during special session either.

Hewitt said if there is not resolution on the budget, they are willing to bring their proposal up for vote in the Senate using the Ninth Order, the same procedural maneuver they used in regular session to pass the first version of their budget.

Watch the full announcement here.

UPDATE: Following the announcement, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Democratic Sen. Ed Murray held an impromptu news conference, where they said that the budget proposal moves closer to their priorities — but not enough.

“They’ve moved toward us in significant ways — particularly education,” Murray said. But it still contains “unacceptable cuts” to the safety net, Brown said. “These cuts have an impact on real people’s lives,” she said.

Furthermore, Brown said she doesn’t understand why the proposal is focusing on pension payments. “The state’s pension system is well-funded. It is not the problem,” she said. Brown said the budget doesn’t include any revenue ideas that  Democrats have put on the table, such as closing certain tax loopholes.

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No budget deal, Gov. Gregoire calls a special session

By | March 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

The Legislature just adjourned without passing a supplemental budget. Gov. Chris Gregoire has called for a special session starting Monday at noon. Gregoire said in a statement that lawmakers passed landmark same-sex marriage legislation and education reform during the 60-day session, but “disagreement still remains over how to close our state’s budget shortfall.”

The House passed its version of a supplemental budget before deadline, but the Senate did not take it up by midnight Thursday. The Legislature did not take up the capital budget, or the “jobs bill,” and will be working on that during special session as well, Gregoire said.

Watch the Governor’s announcement here:

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Update: House passed latest budget proposal

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

The House is debating the latest budget proposal now. Watch live on TVW.

First up: Amendments. Rep. Gary Alexander filed a striking amendment to Rep. Ross Hunter’s striker.

“We’re not that far apart,” said Rep. Richard DeBolt. He says that Alexander’s striker is the only budget that will get lawmakers out of Olympia today. “Let’s send that budget over to the Senate and let’s Sine Die tonight,” he said.

Rep. Bruce Dammeier said some of the budget cuts in Alexander’s amendment are “difficult…. At some point, we have to own up to our responsibility” to write an “honest” budget that doesn’t use accounting tricks.

Rep. Eileen Cody said the minority party wants to “kick 20,000 people off healthcare” so that they can avoid sending an apportionment payment to schools one day late. She said that’s not something she can vote for.

“This striking amendment will take us back in the right direction. It will bring some honesty and transparency back to this process,” said Rep. Barbara Bailey.

The amendment failed, 43 to 55.

Now, for debate of Hunter’s striking amendment.

Rep. Ross Hunter said he wants the House to adopt a budget and thinks this one strikes the right balance.

Rep. Gary Alexander said the chance to pass a bipartisan bill, however, is done. “I don’t think this bill has 50 votes in the House and 25 in the Senate,” he said, adding that he doesn’t know why they’re voting on it at all. He said the delay of payments to the school district is “an accounting error that will cause longstanding repercussions.” He said he’s pleased with a few of the changes in the budget, but not enough to earn his vote. (more…)

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Sens. Rodney Tom and Joe Zarelli: New House budget creates a $2B problem

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

Sens. Rodney Tom and Joe Zarelli talked to Jessica Gao this morning. Watch the whole thing here:

Some takeaways:

“If we pass the budget that the House Democrats are going to send over to us, what we have next January is easily a $2 billion problem,” Zarelli said.

Tom said his constituents are tired of budget shortfalls. “At some point, just like households, you have to live within your means. It’s not rocket science,” he said.

 

Reps. Ross Hunter and Gary Alexander on the budget, special session

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

Reps. Ross Hunter and Gary Alexander talked with Jessica Gao this morning. They both talk about the striking amendment to the Senate-backed budget that House Democrats just unveiled.

Watch Gov. Chris Gregoire’s thoughts on a budget deal, special session here

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

Here’s Jessica Gao’s interview with Gov. Chris Gregoire from this morning. Hear what she has to say about a possible budget deal, special session and more:

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan says House deal could ‘absolutely’ end session today

By | March 8, 2012 | 0 Comments

TVW is interviewing top lawmakers throughout the day. Here’s The Impact host Jessica Gao’s interview with House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, in which he says this morning’s deal could “absolutely” get the Legislature out on time:

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House passed supplemental budget, 53 to 45

By | February 29, 2012 | 0 Comments

The House is debating its version of the supplemental budget now. Watch live on TVW. Each legislator is limited to speaking for three minutes.

Rep. Ross Hunter (D, Medina) was the first to speak. He said there are some in the House who want to spend more — and some who would rather try to save more, but that he believes this budget strikes the right balance.

Rep. Gary Alexander (R, Olympia) said the budget isn’t responsible to the state’s most vulnerable. He said the most divisive issue for Republicans is that the budget shifts responsibilities onto the next Legislature by delaying payments.

Rep. Jeannie Darneille (D, Tacoma) said this budget, like previous ones, seeks to implement evidence-based practices so that the right, targeted cuts are made. “We’ve tried to make our choices in a responsible fashion,” she said.

Rep. Charles Ross (R, Naches) said the budget writing committee has worked hard to define the core functions of government. He said Republicans created a budget to meet those core functions, but it was rejected. He said this budget will “create public safety concerns all across the state” by making changes to community corrections supervision.

Rep. Barbara Bailey (R, Oak Harbor) said real reform is “the only way we will be able to accomplish real sustainability in our budget.” She said year over year, the state spends more than it gets in tax revenue.

Rep. Bruce Dammeier (R, Puyallup) said the citizens in his district are “crying for leadership in Olympia … we’ve seen leadership budgets,” he said, including the governor’s budget, which would have cut services and put a tax package to voters to buy back services. He said that although he said he didn’t agree with her budget, he respected her for “putting it out there.”

Rep. Cathy Dahlquist (R, Enumclaw) said the state’s first priority is to fund education. “Mr. Speaker, I would argue that this budget does the exact opposite,” she said. She cited the Puget Sound Partnership as an example: It was created in 2007 and receives hundreds of millions in state funding. She said reviews of the agency have shown waste and mismanagement, and she suggests cutting funding for it altogether. “Why are we pitting schools, Mr. Speaker, against an irresponsible agency for the same dollar?”

Rep. Pat Sullivan (D, Covington) said this budget strikes a balance. He said he’s proud to vote for the budget and asked others to join him in supporting it.

The budget passed 53 to 45 and now heads to the Senate, where Democrats introduced their version of the budget yesterday.

Up now in the House: Supplemental budget

By | February 28, 2012 | 0 Comments

The House just began debating amendments on the supplemental operating budget. You can see the full list here. And you can watch live on TVW.

“Hopefully, this is the last deep-cuts budget,” said Rep. Ross Hunter, “but I think it’s wise for us to set up a budget in such a way so that we leave some flexibility in our ending fund balance,” he said, speaking to an amendment on the delayed apportionment payment.

“This amendment says, literally, we’re going to fund our schools with our last dime,” said Rep. Bruce Dammeier, of the same amendment. “If we approve it, frankly it’s an embarrassment to me,” he said.

After amendments, the House moved on to other bills — they’ve got to wait 24 hours to take up the budget, according to the rules.

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Senate’s operating budget: No more “bleeding” from K-12, higher ed budgets

By | February 28, 2012 | 0 Comments

Sen. Ed Murray kicked off the press conference for the unveiling of the budget written by Senate Democrats by saying that last year’s budget was bipartisan and that “the structure of the budget you are about to see is still that bipartisan budget.”

In higher education: “We make no cuts.” Same for K-12 education. In addition, they recommend two taxes — the first mortgage exemption and wind machinery exemption — be ended with a two-thirds vote and the savings be invested in basic education.

“In all other parts of the budget, we made cuts,” he said.

Murray said the “modest” improvement from the caseload and revenue forecast amounted to about $425 million. At that point, they decided not to pursue a sales tax. The budget includes $150 million from agency savings. The Senate budget makes a $330 million apportionment delay — including a permanent change in the date, which he says will prevent the state from doing something similar in the future.

Sen. Lisa Brown said the governor’s proposal made deep cuts in social services, education and higher education that weren’t acceptable to Senate Democrats. She said the only option at the beginning of session was to “buy back” the cuts through a tax package. Now, thanks to the revenue caseload forecasts, the tax package isn’t necessary.  “We are cautiously optimistic that we’re turning a corner here in the economy and making the statement that it’s time to turn the corner here in terms of cuts as well,” she said, particularly concerning education.

Now, for Sen. Derek Kilmer on jobs. (more…)

Senate will release its version of the budget tomorrow

By | February 27, 2012 | 0 Comments

Senate Democrats will introduce their version of the supplemental operating budget Tuesday morning at 10:30. You can watch live on TVW — and we’ll be blogging along here.

Sen. Ed Murray will unveil the budget — unlike last year, he won’t be joined by his Republican counterpart, Sen. Joe Zarelli. He will, however, be joined by fellow Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Sens. Derek Kilmer and Jim Hargrove. In addition to unveiling the budget, they’ll discuss job creation strategies and government reform.

With just about a week and a half left of session, we’ll be watching tomorrow to see how close the Senate proposal is to the House-backed plan introduced last week.

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Week 7: Let’s Review

By | February 24, 2012 | 0 Comments

Monday: The Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee considered a controversial bill aimed at putting the Affordable Care Act into place — including implementing the healthcare exchange. On the show, we also looked at a bill that would make truck drivers who work at the state’s ports regular employees, rather than independent contractors. Dozens of truckers attended the hearing in support of the bill, saying they don’t have health insurance and often work in unsafe conditions.

Watch Monday’s Legislative Review.

Tuesday: House Democrats released a proposed supplemental budget that aims to close the budget gap though a combination of cuts, delaying some school payments into the next budget cycle, and asking local governments to pay more for services. More than 100 people testified later that afternoon about the budget proposal. Also, the Senate released its supplemental transportation budget.

Watch Tuesday’s Legislative Review.

Wednesday: On the show, we took a look at two bills spurred by high-profile crimes in Pierce County. In late 2009, Maurice Clemmons, who was out on bail, shot and killed four Lakewood police officers. One bill would make a number of administrative changes to the bail bond system: It would require bail bond agents to undergo a criminal background check. It would also add some additional sideboards to the bail bonds industry. Another bill would prohibit defense attorneys and defendants from viewing child pornography that’s part of the evidence in a criminal case. It stems from a case in Tacoma in which a man accused of sexually abusing dozens of boys acted as his own defense attorney — and was then able to watch hours of videos of the abuse without supervision.

Watch Wednesday’s Legislative Review.

(more…)

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Overflow crowd testifies in House committee about proposed budget cuts

By | February 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

People crowded into a hearing room in the afternoon to speak about a proposed supplemental budget that was announced earlier Tuesday by House Democrats. It includes about $65 million in cuts to higher education, and another $222 million in cuts to health care and human services. You can read the full budget proposal here.

Several people said they are pleased that cuts aren’t as steep as those in the Governor’s initial proposal, but they are still concerned about the impacts.

“Any loss of funding to sexual assault will be detrimental to victims in our state,” said Andrea Piper-Wentland of the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs. She said one in six girls and a quarter of boys are the victims of sexual assault, and money is “desperately needed” for them.

The budget proposal also cuts about $82 million dollars that goes to local cities and counties for programs. To make up the money, the proposal allows local governments to raises taxes without voter approval — including sales taxes, restaurant taxes and utility taxes.

Amber Carter of the Association of Washington Businesses opposes that solution. “Restaurants love to serve up food,” she said. “They don’t want to serve up to a stack of taxes for their next menu item.”

Dozens of other people spoke about concerns about cuts to education, public health and programs such as adult day care.

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House Democrats release supplemental budget: No sales tax proposal, plenty of cuts

By | February 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

House Democratic budget writers released a proposed supplemental budget Tuesday that aims to close the budget gap without a sales tax hike.

However, the proposal gives local city and county governments more authority to raise taxes, such as a sales tax, restaurant tax or utility tax. The proposal allows the state’s seven largest counties to impose a 0.1 percent sales tax without voter approval. Small counties could to raises taxes by 0.2 percent.

“It won’t damage the state over the long run, but it gets us through the worst economic downturn since World War II,” said lead budget writer Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina.

Hunter said the state can no longer afford to help out local governments with certain expenses, and the proposal calls for a reduction of $82 million in distributions to local city and county governments.

“Over time, local governments have punted their responsibilities up to the state,” he said. But the state needs to focus on funding basic education, healthcare and other state responsibilities, and “something has to give,” Hunter said.

The proposal includes about $65 million in cuts to higher education, mainly in a reductions to institutional funding and shrinking the State Need Grant program. It would also delay about $400 million in school payments, which means the money is counted in the next two-year budget cycle.

Hunter said the Supreme Court decision in January that ruled the state is not fulfilling its duty to fund basic K-12 education required a “big rework” of the budget, and the proposal aims to fund basic education, bridge federal health care reform and protect against expected volatility in the economy. “We want to be able to manage major changes,” in the economy, Hunter said.

The budget includes two new sources of revenue: $13 million from a proposal that would add certification and taxing requirements to roll-your-own, or RYO, cigarettes and the retailers that provide these machines. Another $18 million comes from the elimination of a tax break that out-of-state banks can claim on mortgages.

The budget includes $222 million in cuts to health care and human services by reducing certain programs like those for people with chemical dependencies, Hunter said.  It does not include early releases from prison, but there will be “supervision changes” in the corrections department.

The proposal does not make reductions to pension contributions, but it does cut more than 1,500 full-time state employees.

Showing a balance sheet, Hunter said that the budget “spends less than we take in revenue.” Hunter said there has not been a decision about whether or not to send voters a proposed sales tax increase in November.

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Senate Transportation Budget: “We really felt we couldn’t do a major tax increase”

By | February 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen is introducing the Senate’s version of the transportation budget. Despite earlier talk of a major transportation package, Haugen said they “really felt they couldn’t do a major tax increase” this year.

Sen. Curtis King thanked Haugen for the bipartisan process by which they wrote the budget. He said he wants to highlight ferries and reforms. King said the budget includes $2.9 million in fuel savings that ferries achieved through smarter purchasing, authorized by the Legislature last year. The budget also includes funding for a second 144-car ferry. He said those and other changes to the ferry system don’t solve all the ferry system’s issues, but they do put it on the right track.

On the subject of reforms: He said the budget reduces the administrative workforce in the Department of Transportation by 5 percent. He said WDOT is required to increase the ratio of workers to managers. He said they’re also asking for more project updates from WSDOT. “These reforms will save the state money,” he said, and help “to make our overall transportation system more transparent” and less costly.

Sen. Tracey Eide said freight mobility is critical. “All the projects that we have put up play an important role in moving goods” into, out of and through the state. She also said rising gas prices necessitate better mass transit, and this budget provides for that.

Sen. Joe Fain said that the lack of a large transportation package doesn’t mean they’re slowing down on planning for the future. He said the northern portion of I-405 came in under bid, freeing up tens of millions of dollars in the budget.

Sen. Steve Hobbs said the budget makes three key investments in the state patrol, including upgrading their radio system. He said it also funds the facial recognition program, which he said will enable the Department of Licensing to catch 8 to 12 applicants each day who are illegally using another person’s identity.

Haugen said there just weren’t the votes for Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposed fee on oil barrels.

She also said the transportation budget isn’t the most exciting — and that’s just fine with those on the committee.

House Republican budget unveiling: No revenue, no “gimmicks”

By | February 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

The House Republicans are unveiling their version of the supplemental operating budget now. The $1.6 budget patch includes $63 million in fund transfers, $160 million in reversions — taking un-spent money back from agencies — $336 million from reduced caseloads, and $840 million from reductions.

It also repeals three tax exemptions for a total of $35.6 million, including the first mortgage interest deduction for large banks, the renewable energy tax refund and a B&O tax exemption for out-of-state companies that Alexander said are competing against in-state companies unfairly.

“Of course, we had good news recently — the February revenue forecast,” said Rep. Gary Alexander. “I can tell you for the most part that money has gone down to the bottom line,” he said.

Behind Alexander and the others on the panel are a series of large charts. One reads that the budget funds priorities “With no sales tax increases … No bonding … No securitization … No gimmicks.”

This budget includes the House Republicans’ “fund education first” budget released earlier this session, Alexander said.

On public safety, Alexander noted that this budget does not rely on releasing inmates early or reducing supervision.

As for the most vulnerable, this budget includes $89 million more than Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal that was released prior to session, Alexander said. That includes money for supportive employment. “Every single person that’s disabled that wants access to supportive employment will have access to that in our budget,” he said.

The budget would eliminate state funding for the Puget Sound Partnership and reduces the Department of Ecology by 14 percent. Alexander said PSP has access to many millions in federal funds, and removing state support won’t affect that.

State employee compensation would be reduced via a 24-day furlough — or two days per month starting next budget year.

Alexander said they’re not giving up on the idea of expanded gaming. “We will be exploring the options of gaming alternatives, whether that be in the area of extending video terminal machine gaming to our existing non-tribal casinos” or punch-card technology. He said the potential revenue is attractive, particularly in contrast to an increased sales tax, which Republicans do not support.

Rep. Maureen Walsh explained a cut to TANF — temporary assistance for needy families. The current lifetime limit is five years, but this budget would reduce it to four years. Walsh said the hope is that it will “incentivize people to get out there, get a job” and not need the program.

Alexander said he’s shared this budget with the Governor’s office, Senate budget writers and Rep. Ross Hunter, the House Democrats’ budget lead. He said Hunter scribbled a few items down for use in his own version of the budget.

Rep. Charles Ross said the idea in releasing a House Republican version of the budget is to show “what the world would look like” if Republican priorities were represented in a budget.

“For the last four years, I’ve had a position of seeing a budget that doesn’t represent the priorities of my community,” said Rep. Bruce Dammeier, and he’d vote no, year after year. He said this budget gives people a choice.

“We need to empower communities … we don’t always have to be throwing money into task forces and studies and all that,” Walsh said. “Is this budget perfect? Nope,” she said, but it’s a tough time, and she thinks people can step in and fill the gaps that do exist.

 

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House transportation leaders release supplemental budget

By | February 16, 2012 | 0 Comments

House transportation leaders released a $9.8 billion transportation budget today, which includes money to keep the state’s network of ferries running for the next three years without eliminating routes — something officials had warned could happen without a new revenue source.

The budget sets aside $55 million for about ten “immediate” transportation needs, such as a second 144-car ferry, highway maintenance, transit, and improving conditions for children who walk or bike to school.

Those projects would be paid for by increasing fees for driver’s licenses and auto license plates. The cost for a driver’s license, for example, would increase from $25 to $54 under a bill approved by the Senate. The license would be valid for six years instead of the current renewal period of five years. The fees would generate about $210 million for transportation projects over the next two years.

Overall, the $9.8 billion budget changed little from the previous year, except for $770 million in bond proceeds for the new 520 bridge connecting Seattle with Bellevue. “The major thing is that we are in stable condition” for the next two years, said transportation chair Rep. Judy Clibbon, D-Mercer Island.

Among capital projects included in the budget:

  • $15 million in federal grant funds to improve the flow of traffic on I-5 through Joint Base Lewis McChord
  • $36 million for toll equipment for the I-405 widening project
  • $31 million in federal funds and $30 million from Oregon for the Columbia River Crossing project
  • $41 million in City of Seattle funds for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement project
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