The budgets are out, and we have been focused this week on seeing what’s included. Here’s an overview of the Transportation and Capital Budgets as they relate to many of our county infrastructure priorities.
For the Capital Budgets:
We were excited to see the Public Works Assistance Account receive appropriations of $400 million in both the Senate and House budgets. This number aligns with the Governor’s proposal, meaning it’s included in all three proposals and gives it a strong chance to make it into the final budget. This appropriation will honor the promise to sunset the revenue diversions from this account that have for many years kept the program from operating at its full potential.
Second, we were happy to see the level of funding each budget provided for the Brian Abbott Fish Barrier Removal Board. The Senate and House budgets both came in at or just slightly above the Governor’s proposed award of $48 million, meaning this number also has a good chance of being included in the final Capital budget. This would be a great investment in priority projects on the Board’s list.
For the Transportation Budgets:
The 2022 Supplemental Transportation Budget directed the Joint Transportation Committee to convene a workgroup to recommend a funding split between the state and local jurisdictions for Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act formula programs. The workgroup also recommended that WSDOT establish a Federal Fund Exchange Pilot Program. This has been a longstanding priority for counties, and we were happy to see it included in the Governor’s proposal. Both the House and Senate Transportation Budgets also include language to establish a $25 million exchange, and so it too is in a good position heading into the final Transportation Budget. One difference between the proposals is that the House exchanges funding at a 1-to-1 ratio, whereas the Senate proposal has a $0.90-to-$1.00 ratio.
We fully supported the maintenance level requests for the County Road Administration Board (CRAB) and the Transportation Improvement Board (TIB). CRAB’s distribution of CAPP funding is essential for maintenance and preservation. As competitive grant awards, the Rural Arterial Program’s projects ensure prioritization and accountability across the state. We appreciate that these programs, as well as the programs at TIB, are fully funded in both the House and Senate proposals.
CRAB also included a request this session in their budget to hire two new FTEs who specialize in transportation planning and federal funding programs. This will help alleviate some of the capacity problems our smaller jurisdictions are facing. This new proposal addresses how CRAB can provide the technical assistance needed by local governments to navigate the federal system, pursue grant opportunities, and maximize the federal investment made in our transportation system. This request is included in both budgets; however, we do have some concerns regarding which accounts are utilized to fund the positions. We look forward to working with the Transportation Committee Chairs on this question moving forward.
Finally, we were happy to see additional resources for the new Reducing Rural Roadway Departures program included in the House budget. The Governor’s proposal increased funding for the program to $2 million a year or $4 million for the biennium, and the House budget also includes additional funding at that level for this important safety program.
WSACE, Policy Director