OLYMPIA — The state construction budget signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday will fund local workforce development and infrastructure projects, while also creating an estimated 18,000 jobs statewide.
“This bipartisan jobs proposal makes smart investments now – when labor and materials costs and interest rates are low and when our construction industry needs a shot in the arm. But, importantly, this plan targets investments that will drive economic growth for the long haul,” said Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, the Senate’s lead capital budget writer.
The largest part of the package focuses on workforce training, investing $320 million in higher education facilities, including projects at Olympic College in Bremerton and Tacoma Community College.
“There are careers waiting for graduates in our high-demand training programs,” Kilmer said. “By increasing classroom space and improving our educational facilities, we can get more people to graduation day and on to a job interview, increasing graduate production in these programs by as much as 50 percent.”
The bipartisan jobs package also focused on infrastructure that will drive private-sector job growth, investing in export-related projects, industrial site cleanup and preparation, economic development infrastructure such as water systems, and investments in Main Street downtown revitalization efforts.
Local projects include Bay Street improvements in Port Orchard, removal of asbestos water pipes and expansion of the in Gig Harbor, as well as investments to support the economic development efforts of the Port of Bremerton and the Port of Tacoma.
The jobs package was also tightly linked to a proposed amendment to the State Constitution that would gradually lower the state’s debt limit. The amendment is based on the work of the Commission on State Debt, on which Kilmer served.
“The state should make strategic investments like these in tough economic times, and it can do so without creating an undue burden of debt in the future,” Kilmer said.
The capital budget was included in two bills signed by the governor Monday, Senate Bill 5127 and Senate Bill 6074. The proposed amendment to the State Constitution is Senate Joint Resolution 8221. All three measures passed the Legislature with broad bipartisan support.