The Senate today gave unanimous approval to its two-year capital budget, which includes $490 million toward expanding broadband access across Washington.
Sen. Mark Schoesler said the emphasis on broadband needs is especially important for rural parts of the state.
“Insufficient broadband is a problem in 9th District communities and other rural parts of Washington, so it is very good to see the Senate capital budget provide nearly half a billion dollars toward resolving it,” said Schoesler, R-Ritzville. “Better broadband in rural Washington will help students relying on the internet and help small businesses that want to engage in e-commerce. It is also critical to precision farming. This will help put rural and unserved areas of our state on a more equal footing with more populated areas of Washington.”
During his floor speech prior to the 49-0 vote on the Senate’s capital budget, Schoesler, the assistant ranking Republican on the Senate capital budget, called it a responsible spending plan that addresses various needs across the state.
“I’m very happy we didn’t borrow money from the 2023-25 biennium to reach the funding level we needed to with this budget,” said Schoesler. “The Public Works Assistance Account stays where we want it to be. This budget wisely uses the recently received federal funds for the betterment of our state. It leaves some bonding capacity available for the next biennium because when we come back here in 10 months, there will be corrections facilities needs, and other opportunities that we will want to address. This budget takes care of water needs very well in parts of the state, whether it is Lewis County, the Yakima River Basin or other areas. Those are all very important.”
Schoesler noted the Senate capital budget provides a large amount of funding for fish hatcheries. “No matter where we live, we value hatcheries, whether we’re tribes, commercial fishermen or sports fishermen. We did a good job for hatcheries in this budget,” the 9th District legislator said.
Schoesler pointed out the budget’s support for areas including K-12 education, higher education, public safety, community projects and infrastructure projects.
“I’m glad to see the Senate capital budget would provide funding for the Odessa groundwater project, which is important to many of the communities in our region,” added Schoesler, who also highlighted the $8 million included for fair health and safety grants.
The Senate capital budget would provide $907.4 million in bond proceeds and $40.2 million in other funds for K-12 school construction and modernization. The spending plan includes:
- $837.3 million for the School Construction Assistance Program (SCAP), with $781.7 million dedicated to fund 36 construction and renovation projects in 29 school districts;
- $47.2 million for modernization grants to small school districts;
- $14.2 million for skills centers;
- $10 million to the school district health and safety grants program to address health and safety issues, equal access and emergency repairs; and,
- $51.6 million for construction of new education facilities for those with disabilities.
The Senate capital budget also offers $1.51 billion in total appropriations and alternative financing authority for higher-education facilities, including $1.06 billion of state bond proceeds. Of the total spending authority, $963 million is provided for Washington’s four-year institutions and $551 million for the community and technical college system.
The capital budget funds the construction and maintenance of state buildings, public schools, higher education facilities, public lands and parks.
After the House passes its capital budget plan, Senate and House negotiators will start working to address differences between the two proposals and reach agreement on a final version for both chambers to pass.
The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to end April 25.