Brown scores major wins for Tri-Cities in Senate capital budget

Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, said today she is pleased that her work to get significant funding for local colleges, historical projects and other key community improvements paid off with more than $40 million in funding for 8th District projects included in the Senate’s proposed capital budget.

Brown pushed aggressively to make sure several projects important to the Tri-Cities were included in the plan, released Tuesday, including $8 million for the Science Laboratories Infrastructure (SLI) project in Richland. The funds would be used to purchase two advanced scientific instruments to be housed in a new, world-class energy- and materials-research facility at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, slated for a design/construction start in 2018.

“This is a vital project for our community,” said Brown, who serves as a vice chair on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “The location of these two instruments at one facility would be unique in the world and would accelerate the development of new energy materials using clean, abundant, and domestic sources.

“The instruments and the facility would be available to other Washington researchers, and would position Washington research institutions for global leadership in advanced energy and materials science and technology research.”

If the SLI facility is completed, it is expected to result in approximately 300 jobs in Washington over a two-year period. It would also provide approximately $60 million in short-term construction costs and building-trades jobs. The long-term indirect benefits to economic productivity and jobs in the state are expected to be many times this level.

“These technological advances also hold the potential for significant manufacturing industry and export growth; that means more high-paying jobs for our folks here in the Tri-Cities and across the state,” Brown pointed out. “It may also help the U.S. reduce its dependence on foreign energy imports – a potential national-security, as well as economic, benefit.”

If approved, state funding for the project is likely to boost PNNL’s anticipated matching-request for a U.S. Department of Energy science investment of approximately $89 million in federal fiscal years 2018-22.

“A commitment by the state Legislature to fund this project would greatly strengthen PNNL’s ability to have this new facility built on its Richland campus,” said Brown.

The Senate capital-budget plan also includes $1.5 million in funding for the Whitehouse Addition Homeownership Program. The capital campaign is a project of the Habitat Tri-County Partners, which includes Habitat for Humanity partners in Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties.

The WHA program goal is to raise $3.4 million to develop a neighborhood in Pasco, where Habitat for Humanity will construct 24 homes to be completed by 2019.

“There is an affordable housing crisis in our state, and this is particularly true in some areas of the Tri-Cities,” said Brown. “Providing that level of funding would have a significant impact on obtaining the construction materials needed to place 24 partnering families in simple, decent and affordable homes.”

The capital budget is used to improve, build and repair public-works projects around the state, including public parks and lands, state-owned buildings and other capital projects. It is separate from the state operating budget.

Other 8th District projects funded in the Senate proposal include:

  • Tri-Tech Skill Center – Core Growth ($10.8 million)
  • WSU Tri-Cities – Academic Building ($3 million)
  • Kennewick Automated Meter Reading Project ($6 million)
  • Public Works Assistance for US 395/Ridgeline Interchange in Kennewick ($6 million); and
  • Tri-Cities Readiness Center ($800,000);

The budget proposal also includes $300,000 for the Save the Old Tower project in Pasco. While both the Tower and WHA projects are outside the 8th District, Brown made the request for their inclusion in the 2017-19 capital budget due to their importance to the Tri-Cities region.

“I will continue to fight for funding for these important local projects as we begin to negotiate with the House of Representatives on a final budget,” Brown said. “These improvements will boost education, economic development and jobs in our communities and will help continue to position the Tri-Cities as a national and world leader in science, technology and energy advancement.”