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Government and Politics
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Another Standoff Threatens Another Budget In Olympia

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Time is running out for Washington lawmakers to pass a capital construction budget. Less than one week remains in the state’s third overtime session of the legislature.

It would be unprecedented for the state to go without a capital budget. It funds classroom construction, improvements at state mental hospitals and prisons and myriad local projects. It also funds environmental clean-up.

Without a capital budget, the governor’s office says hundreds of projects won’t get built and tens of thousands of jobs won’t be created.

Among the projects at risk, according to the Office of Financial Management, is the addition of 115 forensic beds at Western and Eastern state hospitals. The state is under court order to shorten the time jail inmates must wait for competency evaluations and restoration services. The new beds are designed to reduce wait times.

But perhaps the biggest impact of not having a capital budget would be to classroom and school construction. More than 75 projects worth nearly $1.5 billion face uncertainty. That includes projects that are already under construction, shovel ready projects and projects that are still in the design phase.

The Washington House has already passed the $4 billion budget. But Senate Republicans say there can be no capital budget without first addressing something else: a Washington Supreme Court decision that limits new drinking water wells in rural areas.

The so-called Hirst decision limits non-permitted wells on private property. As a result some property owners have been unable to obtain building permits.

In dueling tweets Senate Republicans say House Democrats are blocking a fix for rural families. House Democrats counter that thousands of families are at risk because Republicans’ refuse to pass the capital budget.

The standoff shows no signs of ending.