Time to Pass a Capital Budget for People and Nature in Washington

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee released his supplemental budget on Dec. 14, which included several important proposals regarding Washington’s lands and waters, in addition to highlighting important investments in education, health and housing.

During a press conference, Inslee said that the Legislature should pass a capital budget during the first week of the 2018 legislative session, noting that a capital budget is “a basic, fundamental obligation” for state government. A capital budget agreement was reached in 2017, but was not passed by the Legislature at the end of session.

Gov. Inslee, left, tours a Snohomish County dairy farm in 2017. Photo © Hannah Letinich.

In addition to funding thousands of construction jobs, public-school grants and mental-health and housing services, the capital budget includes millions of dollars for projects to help people and nature thrive together. Capital projects will treat wastewater and stormwater, help Washington accelerate its transition to clean energy, protect communities from flooding and provide recreation access to more Washingtonians. We hope the Legislature will swiftly pass the capital budget it agreed upon when it reconvenes on Jan. 8.

This year’s fire season was second only to 2015 in the size of wildfires in Washington — and it was the most expensive fire season on record. Gov. Inslee’s budget includes $50 million to cover the costs associated with fighting wildfires during the 2017 fire season. The budget also includes millions of dollars to better prepare for and respond to wildland fires, equipping the state Department of Natural Resources with needed supplies, training and technology and providing the state Department of Fish and Wildlife funds to support healthy forest habitats and reduce wildfire risk.

The Jolly Mountain fire burns through the night earlier this year. Photo © John Marshall

The governor also announced more that $3 million in his budget to address record-low numbers of resident orcas in Puget Sound. “We are witnessing a heartbreaking decline in our Southern Resident orca population,” the governor said, adding we must undertake statewide efforts to save this iconic species from extinction.

Though not included in his supplemental budget, Inslee announced during the Dec. 14 news conference that his office was working on a carbon-pricing plan to be discussed in detail in January. The Nature Conservancy has been working actively to create a coalition of business, tribal, health, natural-resource industry and progressive interests to meaningfully reduce carbon pollution in Washington. We look forward to seeing the details of the governor’s proposal.

We look forward to working with the governor and the Legislature during the 2018 session to support policies that are good for people and for nature.

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