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House supplemental capital budget focuses on new classrooms, mental health

by caprecord

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday introduced the House supplemental capital budget, which provides funding for classrooms, mental health facilities and environmental cleanup projects.

Watch TVW video of the press conference here.

The House capital budget authorizes $87 million in spending for state and local construction projects in Washington through 2017, leaving $1.8 million in bond capacity reserved for the 2017 supplemental capital budget.

Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness

Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, said the process has been a bipartisan effort focusing on the “crisis that the state’s facing.” He said their main focus is classroom construction, with $10.8 million authorized to purchase modular classrooms for school districts.

“Almost every school district is being faced with the use of portables and large class size,” he said. “We tried to focus on the classroom needs across the state.”

He said lawmakers will select four school districts on both sides of the mountains and “focus on districts that actually need classrooms, not whole new schools.”

Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, said that she’s glad such a significant portion of the budget is going to education. “This is something I think holds great potential for our state, for some of our most distressed communities,” she said.

The capital budget also includes is $1.85 million for the Department of Social and Health Services for mental health institutions. That includes funds to design an 18-bed addition to the Child Study and Treatment Center and $1.4 million to convert facilities at Maple Lane for “temporary use as forensic beds.” Maple Lane is a former juvenile detention facility.

“We started a process on mental health in the last cycle,” Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis said. “It was a very good budget for mental health so we can continue that on.”

Additionally, Rep. Derek Stanford, D-Bothell, praised the proposed $8.6 million for low-interest loans to local governments for projects that include drinking water, solid waste, street, storm water and bridge construction projects.

“I’m just pleased that we were able to make this investment in the public works assistance account and really kick start attention to those needs,” he said.

A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in the Senate Ways and Means Committee to vote on the capital budget.