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Senate coalition presses House Democrats on school construction funding

February 12th, 2013 by Steven Gardner

Republicans The Majority Coalition Caucus in the state Senate trumpeted passage of a $475 million school construction bond yesterday, a bill that includes $10 million for school security improvements.

The bill, SB 5445, was notable in its timing. Bills like this don’t normally pass until later in the session. The party’s coalition’s statement made the case this will make money available for construction projects sooner.

“Getting the money sooner means construction can begin earlier, which is good for creating jobs,” said state Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, in the party’s coalition’s prepared statement.

I had some question about that, wondering if all this spending had to wait until the new fiscal year begins in July. I received confirmation that what Schoesler said is correct. The bill passed 47-0, (Two were excused as absent.) so it should sail through the House.

The House, though, is led by Democrats, not Republicans or the coalition. Part of this bill was meant to emphasize the Republican Party’s the Majority Coalition’s emphasis on getting education funded first, then working on the rest of the budget after education is set. “And it’s smart budgeting because it keeps school construction from being caught up in any other debates about spending on capital projects,” Schoesler said in the statement.

In a hearing in the Senate Ways & Means Committee, Clover Park School District’s Debbie LeBeau said getting the money available early will help that district begin spending sooner on construction projects local voters approved there. (State bonds are used to match local money.)

The bill also specifically would help the Evergreen School District in Vancouver, where a school burned to the ground

That money only moves quickly if Democrats in the House move the bill through that chamber to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk. The state would then issue $475 million in general obligation bonds, which are paid for out of the state’s general fund.

Pressure’s on.

And by the way, my frequent slashing through the party references is in connection to Democratic Party contentions that state Sens. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, and Rodney Tom, D-Mercer Island, should no longer call themselves Democrats because they joined Republicans in the Majority Coalition. Sheldon and Tom responded.

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