State coffers opening, but don't count the money yet


The Mirror

Several Federal Way-area projects received state funding in the House of Representatives’ 2005-07 biennial budget proposals released last week, but city officials think a combination of the House’s and Senate’s budgets would be best for Federal Way.

“On the transportation budget, we’re very pleased both the House and Senate have $100 million for the Triangle project,” city manager David Moseley said. “That’s a very big and important project for us.”

Still, the Senate’s transportation budget includes a proviso giving Federal Way a seat on the Puget Sound Regional Council, an influential body that allocates funding to regional transportation projects. “That’s not in the House budget, so that’s probably something we’ll work on,” Moseley said.

In the capital budget, the House Capital Budget Committee proposed allocating $300,000 to the Federal Way Boys and Girls Club’s EX3 teen center, $177,000 for lighting at the Steven J. Underwood ballfield in Des Moines, $300,000 for the Des Moines Beach Park historic buildings and $856,000 for the Joe’s Creek restoration project in Federal Way.

“We’re extremely pleased both the House and Senate capital budgets have $856,000 for Joe’s Creek,” Moseley said. “If that stays in the budget, that probably means we have enough money to do the project next year.”

Rep. Skip Priest of Federal Way agreed, saying he expects to see that level of funding in a final budget since both chambers’ proposed allocations mirror each other.

But the Senate’s capital budget doesn’t include $100,000 the House budget identifies for boardwalk repairs in the West Hylebos Park wetlands. Priest said he’s “hopeful the $100,000 for the Hylebos in the House bill will also be in the Senate bill.”

For the rest of this week and into next week, negotiators from the House and Senate will meet with Governor Christine Gregoire’s negotiators to hammer out a final budget both chambers can pass to the governor for her signature.

The state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development’s capital budget allocation includes $20 million for the Community Economic Revitalization Board, $100 million for state housing assistance, $38 million for jobs and economic development grants, $32 million for local and community projects, $289 million for the public works trust fund and $3.2 million for youth recreational facilities.

Priest (R-30th District) noted the local importance of the $100 million proposed for housing assistance, which he said is $20 million more than last year.

“The Housing Trust Fund is very important to the Multi-Service Center,” he said, referring to the non-profit organization in Federal Way that provides a variety of social services to south King County-area residents, including emergency and transitional housing. “The center competes with other organizations for grants.”

He added he was “pleased to see” additional money directed to the fund.

The state Department of Social and Health Services’ allocations included $50 million to preserve the mental health division’s Highline Mental Health program and $617,000 for an expansion of the Pediatric Interim Care Center’s Kent facility for infants born addicted to drugs.

On the operating side, the House Appropriations Committee’s $50 billion biennial budget allocates money to fund education needs, improve access to healthcare and mental healthcare, provide for a prescription drug purchasing consortium, provide for low-income family assistance and assistance for the elderly, provide for gambling, drug and alcohol treatment, and cover other social service needs in Washington.

The biennial budget provides funding for public safety, addresses state employee compensation and provides funding for state general government items, including $25,000 from the state general fund in outreach to returning veterans, $170,000 from the state general fund for post traumatic stress counseling, and $128 million from the federal general fund for homeland security.

The House operating budget includes revenue for state parks and trails as well as funding to protect natural resources, including $9 million from the state toxics account to clean up toxic sites, $1.6 million from the state oil spill prevention account created in response to the Dalco Passage spill last year, $852,000 in state general funds to reduce bioaccumulative toxins in the environment, and funding for Hood Canal and Columbia River work.

The House Appropriations Committee, which issues the operating budget, proposed partially reinstating the estate tax and raising the tobacco tax to cover education-related budget expenditures.

While the state economy is looking up, representatives noted the cost of continuing services and programs offered in the 2003-05 biennium will cost about $650 million more than is anticipated to be available in the 2005-07 biennial budget. Legislators used new taxes, fund transfers and service reductions, among other things, to meet the $650 million shortfall.

The House allocated $27 million more in federal elections account funds for the Help America Vote Act, $10 million from the Homeless Housing Account for the Homeless Housing Program, $5 million from the state general fund for government performance and accountability and $700,000 from the state general fund for performance audits of tax preferences to see if certain taxes continue to serve the public.

For the rest of this week and into next week, negotiators from the House and Senate will meet with Gov. Christine Gregoire’s negotiators to hammer out a final budget proposal both chambers can pass to the governor for her signature.

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