New capital budget makes major investments in flood protection and schools

The Washington State Legislature approved a new capital budget Thursday evening, bringing a variety of investments in infrastructure and community projects to Southwest Washington according to Sen. John Braun. The $4.2 billion budget, which runs through June 2019, makes historic investments in building schools, expanding mental health treatment facilities and preventing and protecting the area from catastrophic flooding.

“Everyone in our community knows far too well the devastating toll major flooding events have on personal safety, property and our local economy,” said Braun, R-Centralia. “I’m pleased we were able to secure $60 million toward advancing our long-term strategy to reduce the impacts of flood damage in the Chehalis River basin.”

While the state’s operating budget pays for the day-to-day costs of running state government, the capital budget pays for long-term infrastructure and community-oriented projects. These include new school buildings, state government facilities, environmental cleanup, public health and treatment facilities and a variety of other grants.

The biggest ticket item includes $1 billion toward the state’s School Construction Assistance Program, the largest investment in state history. The fund provides support for districts building new schools or modernizing existing facilities.

“Providing more classrooms will help schools implement our investments in reducing the class size for students in kindergarten through third grade,” said Braun. “While we’ve allocated money to pay for the operational costs, it’s clear some districts need assistance building new schools or expanding existing buildings.”

The 20th Legislative District Braun represents will also receive grants for local parks, Boys and Girls Clubs in Chehalis and Rochester, museums and local historical buildings.

The Green Hill School — a state-run center for juvenile offenders in Chehalis — also sees an additional $3.3 million for safety and building improvements.

The capital budget and the bonds needed to pay for it received overwhelming bipartisan support and are now headed to the governor for review and to be signed into law.