19th District Legislators reflect on state budgets and local funding

Final budgets approved by Washington lawmakers as they prepared to adjourn their 2023 legislative session include $72 million for a railway-grade separation project in Aberdeen, and $111 million for other public works across Southwest Washington’s 19th Legislative District.

Members of the Legislature passed transportation and capital budgets Saturday, a day before the scheduled adjournment of the 2023 session.

Lawmakers from the 19th District—Sen. Jeff Wilson and Reps. Jim Walsh and Joel McEntire—each had a hand in sponsoring and garnering approval for these big-impact transportation and capital budget allotments.

Walsh, R-Aberdeen, had this to say about the budget plans:

“While this session included some unfortunate policy proposals out of Olympia, the news is much better for people of the 19th District when it comes to state-funded projects. These budget items were done the right way. Negotiated and structured in productive, bipartisan processes. Our focus in these efforts is what’s best for the district, the region, and the people.

“In the capital and transportation budgets, we are funding infrastructure development all around the district. From much-needed housing units in Pacific County to better-lighted streets in Longview, to needed traffic improvements in Kelso to major—really major—infrastructure development in and around the Port of Grays Harbor, we’re positioning the district for real improvements to local economies and quality of life. These are practical ‘shovel-ready’ projects that will start right away.”

Major allocations for the district include the Aberdeen grade separation project, which will reduce congestion at the city’s eastern gateway, funding for municipal parks, libraries and public works, $8.3 million for improvements to Cape Disappointment State Park, and $4 million for legislation introduced by Rep. Joel McEntire to assist small schools with capital funding.

“I am excited my small school funding legislation is part of this capital spending plan. It is long overdue for the state to provide our students a quality place to learn instead of rundown or dilapidated schools. I am hopeful this is a big first step,” said McEntire, R-Cathlamet.

“I’m also pleased with the rest of the budget. We worked hard to see that taxpayer revenues were coming back to the 19th District. Investing in our communities and local economies is very important right now. I would add the transportation budget allows us to move forward in a timely manner with some projects critical to our region.

The grade separation project will reduce congestion near the Olympic Gateway Plaza in Aberdeen, where busy Wishkah Street is separated from the shopping center parking lot by an active rail line. Overpasses will improve traffic flow and emergency response times. Funding was reprogrammed in the transportation budget, House Bill 1125, from the stalled Industrial Way/Oregon Way project in Longview, keeping the funding within the 19th District and avoiding reversion to the state. The budget includes approximately $58 million for the State Route 12 grade separation project.

Meanwhile, the capital budget, Senate Bill 5200, appropriates $9 billion for projects statewide. The budget makes significant investments in statewide priorities, like housing, behavioral health, K-12 schools, and a variety of community projects. About $4.2 billion of which comes from the sale of newly authorized bonds under House Bill 1148 and the remainder from other sources.

Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, said, “The capital budget did a terrific job of funding projects across Southwest Washington. From libraries to playgrounds, leaking roofs to senior centers, this budget will make a positive impact across our region.

“I am especially proud we found a way to fund roof repairs at the Kelso train depot project that was about to slip through the cracks, by reprogramming unspent capital budget money allocated to the 19th District that was going to revert to the state. How we accomplished this last-minute save, people may not care. But I think they’re going to love the fact that we are finally fixing the leaks. This $575,000 roof repair will preserve this landmark transportation hub for years to come.”

Wilson said he was disappointed that a new $40 million vocational building for Lower Columbia College did not make it into the final compromise, but said he would continue efforts to seek funding in future budgets.

Wilson also noted that he was pleased funding to combat homelessness in the 19th District was provided in the final budget deal-$250,000 for the Community House Youth Emergency Shelter in Longview, and $2.5 million for the Lewis County Homeless Shelter, which serves homeless populations in both Lewis and Cowlitz counties.

Other projects in the capital budget plan include:

  • Naselle Hatchery Renovation: $11.5 million
  • Beaver Creek Hatchery: $2.6 million
  • Terminal 4 expansion and redevelopment (Aberdeen): $3.5 million
  • Port of Willapa Harbor (South Bend): $800,000
  • Dylan Jude Harrell Community Center Gymnasium: $384,000
  • Grays Harbor County Courthouse: $225,000
  • American Legion Veteran Housing and Resource Center: $493,000
  • South Bend School District: $300,000
  • Kelso School District, construction and renovation: $165,000
  • Library Capital Improvement Program (Longview): $750,000
  • Library Capital Improvement Program (South Bend): $249,000
  • City of Longview Mint Valley Golf Course Irrigation Replacement: $2 million
  • Cloney Inclusive Playground (Longview): $1 million
  • Lower Columbia College, David Story Field: $1.3 million
  • Chehalis Basin Strategy (shared with neighboring districts): $70 million

For a complete list of capital budget projects, click here or go to: https://fiscal.wa.gov/statebudgets/CapitalProjectListDistrictBien