The capital budget committee took action today on a sore subject: passing a senate bill that lowers the debt payment limit on capital budget bonding, 6-5. Three Democrats and three Republicans voted for the legislation, including committee chair Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-44, Snohomish). The issue had put the larger state budget negotiations in a deep freeze.

Dunshee, who'd been sternly opposed to the idea—a constitutional amendment that lower the state's debt limit from nine to seven percent of the general fund—ushered a compromise version through his committee this afternoon along the lines we anticipated in Fizz this morning.[pullquote]Dunshee said "when you do it at the local level, its all on property taxes. For districts like mine, the taxes will be raised. In poor districts, they'll still be working in those crappy old schools."[/pullquote]

Even though Dunshee voted for legislation, he didn't sound too enthusiastic about it today. "In the next 20 years two and half million people will come to this state. Where will their parks be, where will their schools be?"

He also reiterated a point made by liberal Rep. Laurie Jinkins' (D-27, Tacoma), who voted against the legislation, that restricting access to bonds would lead state and local officials to seek out more expensive forms of financing. On raising additional revenue for projects, Dunshee said "when you do it at the local level, its all on property taxes. For districts like mine, the taxes will be raised. In poor districts, they'll still be working in those crappy old schools."

Dunshee has also argued that lowering the debt limit costs the state thousands of jobs, but legislators on the senate side say that a high debt limit takes millions from the operating budget. Senate leadership has been holding Dunshee's capitol budget hostage until Dunshee moved on their debt reduction bill, sponsored by Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-26, Gig Harbor).

Dunshee's committee compromise would lower the debt limit to 8.5 (instead of nine) and also take a little longer to get there, waiting until 2018 rather than 2016, as Kilmer's proposal suggested.

With some Republicans voting for the legislation, Rep. Norma Smith (R-10, Clinton) still voted against the legislation, saying that the compromise "doesn't go far enough" and called the current debt limit "unsustainable."

The proposed striker translates to $3 billion in lower bonding capacity over the next 10 years, but still $3.8 billion more than Kilmer's proposal.

If the house and senate agree on a the constitutional amendment it will have go to voters for approval.