Many wins for the 16th Legislative District included in the state’s three spending budgets
By Rep. Skyler Rude, Rep. Mark Klicker, and Sen. Perry Dozier
The final gavel of the 2023 legislative session has dropped. It has been our honor to represent and serve the people of the 16th District and be your voice in Olympia. It was great to be back in person at the state Capitol, and we accomplished many good things throughout the last three and a half months.
Our most important responsibility as legislators, year in and year out is to negotiate and pass the three state -government budgets: operating, transportation, and capital. The groundwork for this process starts before the session ever begins. While each budget is created differently and funded from separate resources, they collectively provide us with opportunities to achieve victories for our district – and there are many to report this year.
Let’s start with the 2023-25 capital budget, which both chambers approved unanimously. The biennial construction, repair, and infrastructure funding plan, Senate Bill 5200, appropriates $8.98 billion in funding, $4.18 billion of which comes from the sale of revenue bonds authorized under House Bill 1148.
This budget makes significant investments statewide in housing, behavioral health, K-12 schools, and infrastructure. Nearly $43 million is designated for local projects in the 16th District, including $12 million for the Washington State Patrol Unit Six roof replacement; $5 million for the Three Rivers Behavioral Health Center; $4.7 million for the Walla Walla 2050, EIS, bi-state flow study; $2.1 million for the Mill Creek Passage – 5th Avenue Bridge; and $515,000 for the Community Learning Center in Kennewick.
The capital budget is a great example of the bipartisan work being done in Olympia. This spending plan reflects key priorities and meaningful, long-lasting investments in community and infrastructure projects across the state. It supports development, encourages economic vitality, and puts people to work, even in the smallest communities.
The Legislature also passed the two-year transportation budget. This $13.5 billion bipartisan plan funds infrastructure projects across the state, including maintenance and preservation of current transportation systems, the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Washington State Patrol, and other state transportation agencies.
This budget also represents the dedicated, cooperative work between the Democratic transportation chairs in the House and Senate and their Republican counterparts. Both parties put their differences aside to create a good budget for Washington. It’s an excellent example of what we can accomplish when we work together regardless of political affiliation.
Perhaps the most important project included in the budget for our district is the $21.8 million in funding for planning and acquisitions for the completion of the U.S. Highway 12 corridor project spanning from Walla Walla to Pasco. We also secured an additional $13.4 million for improvements for the State Route 224 Red Mountain corridor project.
Unfortunately, we could not block the inclusion of money for a study about replacing the transportation capacity on the Snake-Columbia River system made possible by the four federal Snake River dams in our state. However, Republican budget leaders influenced the language to limit the likelihood of a biased, politically driven outcome.
Lastly, state government as its new two-year operating budget. Despite ongoing economic concerns, the good news is state tax collections remain strong, and budget writers have $2.7 billion more in revenue for 2023-25 compared to what was assumed in last year’s budget. However, the 2023-25 House budget proposal increases spending to $69.8 billion, representing a $6 billion increase over current spending levels.
While the proposal funds many important programs, it does not reflect bipartisan input to the extent of the other two budgets, especially House Republicans. The spending proposal does not offer any significant tax relief or keep enough in reserves, even though an economic slowdown has been forecast.
Instead, it would allocate money for close to 1,500 new or expanded programs and other general funding for current programs. To make things even worse, there is also an appropriation for a study of how to replace the power generation and irrigation capacity that would be lost if the Snake River dams were to be breached. That clinched our decision to oppose the budget.
We worked extremely hard for long hours on your behalf this session and continue to do everything in our power to pass good legislation that helps all Washingtonians. We will continue fighting for your well-being throughout the interim and for as long as we have the privilege to serve in the Legislature.
Now that this session has ended, we look forward to meeting with you in our district again. We are here to listen and want to hear from you. Please visit our legislative websites for contact information.
It’s truly an honor to represent you and be your voice in the Legislature. Thank you for allowing us to serve you.
Editor’s note: Rep. Skyler Rude, R-Walla Walla, Rep. Mark Klicker, R-Walla Walla and Sen. Perry Dozier, R-Waitsburg, serve the 16th Legislative District.
As printed in the Prosser Record-Bulletin