Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, is proposing that Washington state use a chunk of funding from the latest federal stimulus package to address blocked fish passages across the state and to help counties work through a backlog of drug possession cases called into question by the state supreme court’s recent Blake decision.
A press release notes that an estimated $5 billion coming into Washington can be spent at the state’s discretion. Per Walsh’s proposal — in the form of a budget proviso — money would go to replacing culverts and other obstacles to fish passage across Western Washington. After a court ruling, Washington state is required to address culverts blocking fish passage, which were ruled as infringing upon Native treaty rights.
The portion of funding meant to address the Blake decision would come in the form of $100 million in one-time grants. Officials have estimated that working through decades of drug possession charges — filed under state statute recently deemed unconstitutional — could take counties months, and will be a financial burden.
In a prepared statement, Walsh said the details of his proviso will likely be debated.
“The important thing to keep in mind is both programs meet the best-use standard of one-time federal stimulus money. They address specific, non-recurring needs,” he said. “They don’t create ongoing fiscal obligations. These proviso will get old business off of the state’s books and free up regular state tax revenues to be spent on other critical projects.”
The Aberdeen lawmaker also said he is going to devote his time in the last few weeks in the legislation session “to convincing my colleagues to join me in this approach.”