Tacoma projects get boost from state construction budget

In odd-numbered years, the legislature passes not one but three separate budgets for our state.

The operating budget is the one most people think of as “the state budget.” It funds the operations of our state – everything from K-12 education, to higher education, to human services, to corrections, to natural resources and more.  One of my recent newsletters covered some of the highlights of the operating budget.

The transportation budget, meanwhile, funds our roads, bridges, state patrol, and ferry operations. My next newsletter will focus on highlights from this budget.

Then there’s the capital budget, which is the construction budget. It pays for construction, renovation and maintenance of our public buildings, like schools, colleges, and state hospitals. It also funds construction of affordable housing, mental health facilities, and acquisition and maintenance of state parks and recreation lands, among other infrastructure.

Through various grants, the capital budget also funds local projects in communities each year (here’s a look at what was funded in our community in the 2017-2019 capital budget: https://housedemocrats.wa.gov/jinkins/2018/01/19/passage-of-state-construction-budget-funds-tacoma-projects/). This newsletter focuses on specific projects in the 27th Legislative District that received funding in the 2019-2021 state capital budget. Thanks to state investment, these projects are moving forward and will serve the people of Tacoma and greater Pierce County well.

Capital budget overview

House Democrats proposed bold investments in public schools, affordable housing, environmental sustainability and behavioral health for the capital budget. As someone who works intensely on the behavioral health budget, I am especially proud of the work we did to align the capital and operating budgets to advance behavioral health treatment in Washington.

Working across the aisle as well as with the state Senate, the final compromise budget signed by the governor on May 21st invests nearly $5 billion statewide in projects that create and sustain jobs, bolster our local economy, and serve the people in our communities.

Highlights include:

$1.1 billion for K-12 public school construction statewide

$973 million for higher education, including projects at UW Tacoma and Bates Technical College

$274 million for construction and renovation of behavioral health facilities, including the design of a new forensic hospital here in Pierce County

$585 million for orca and salmon recovery programs, including habitat protection and pollution control

$175 million for the Housing Trust Fund, which funds affordable housing projects across the state, the majority of which serve homeless families, seniors, farmworkers, and people with developmental disabilities

Everywhere you go in and around Tacoma lately, you see projects in motion. Photo: Morf Morford
Everywhere you go in and around Tacoma lately, you see projects in motion. Photo: Morf Morford

Tacoma projects get boost

$1.5 million for the YWCA Pierce County’s “Home at Last” project to help build 54 affordable housing units. Forty-one units will rent to homeless families and 13 units will rent to people with disabilities or other barriers to housing. The YWCA Pierce County operates the largest domestic violence shelter in the region and finding permanent housing for clients exiting the shelter has become increasingly difficult as rents in Tacoma continue to rise. The “Home at Last” project will help fill this deep need. Additionally, $750,000 from the capital budget is specifically for program space within the “Home at Last” project site. The space will allow an expansion of the therapeutic counseling program and add two Housing Advocates to help families access the resources they need to be successful.

$1 million to help fund renovation of the existing Beacon Center so it can also be used as a Youth/Young Adult Drop-in Center and Young Adult Overnight Shelter while continuing its current use as a Senior Citizens Center.

$800,000 for Tacoma Housing Authority’s Arlington Drive project, to finish construction of this facility that will serve homeless youth and young adults. The project includes 58 apartments for homeless young adults ages 18-24 years, about 30 percent of whom will be parents of babies or toddlers.

$413,000 for Tacoma Community House, to complete construction on their new 27,000 square foot building in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. TCH provides services to refugees, immigrants, and vulnerable populations in areas like employment counseling, English language classes, citizenship courses, and advocacy for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. They have been in the same location since 1910.

$824,000 for community radio station KNKX to build a new studio in the heart of Tacoma.

$4 million for design of an Academic Innovation Building at the University of Washington Tacoma campus. This facility will house labs to support mechanical and civil engineering degree programs, allow for significant expansion of the Milgard School of Business, and become a hub for innovation and learning for academic programs across the campus.

$40.8 million for construction of a facility to educate health care providers. The development of Tacoma’s “Medical Mile” between Tacoma General and St. Joseph’s Hospitals highlights the need to address health care worker shortages. With this investment, Bates will be able to bring state-of-the-art health education to a broad array of providers.

– Rep. Laurie Jinkins, House Democrats