As August comes to an end and the days grow shorter, the odds are getting longer that the Washington Legislature will come to an agreement on a capital-spending budget. That’s an awful shame, resembling nothing so much as the embarrassing political malpractice going on in Washington, D.C.
The crux of the disagreement is that State Senate Republicans are holding the capital budget hostage while pushing for a legislative fix for a State Supreme Court decision getting in the way of drilling new rural water wells. The well moratorium is a big problem the Legislature does need to address. Pacific County is among many jurisdictions that may find rural home-site development come to a standstill over the well issue.
However, tribes and some environmental groups like the well restrictions, believing the state has done too little to protect watersheds from over-development and overuse of groundwater. District 19 State Rep. Brian Blake worked hard to find an acceptable compromise, sponsoring a proposal to extend preexisting rules for well permits for two years to allow lawmakers to find a long-term answer. But other House Democrats weren’t sufficiently convinced. The Legislature’s longest session in history ended with no capital budget and no fix for the well-drilling mess.
Many assumed calmer heads would prevail and that legislators would return for one more short special session to pass the budget, on which 19,000 jobs hang. This includes jobs in Pacific County, for example in the Pacific Conservation District that performs vital work including preservation of eroding beaches.
In Pacific County, other impacts include delays in an $8 million renovation of the Naselle salmon hatchery and more than $2.5 million for continuing work on Peninsula lighthouses, plus much else.
Continuing to block the capital budget is a classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face, doing damage to the entire state, no matter the political affiliation of local lawmakers. State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, told the Spokesman-Review last week, “I remain very optimistic that we’ll come to a successful resolution.”
Time has run out. It’s time for certainty, not just optimism. Pass the capital budget.