Lobby group says state Senate cut funding for rebuilding Sunset Beach
The final state budget has yet to be written.
But the state Senate version contains some $68.8 million for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, according to information provided by the Wildlife and Recreation Coalition.
That coalition is a private, statewide advocacy group that supports outdoor and environmental projects across Washington.
The current Senate budget actually contains some good news in the overall level of funding, said Karin Frank, a spokeswoman for the Wildlife Coalition. Those dollars include $1.1 million in funding for new floating docks on Lake Sammamish, $750,000 for a new playground in Lake Sammamish State Park and more dollars for beach restoration.
Still, Frank said the budget could have, and in her opinion, should have, contained at least $3.1 million more for the rebuilding of Sunset Beach in the state park.
According to Frank, in past years, the Senate has used a prioritized list for funding recreation projects. That list was ignored this year. Had the senate used the prioritized list, the Sunset Beach project would have made the cut.
In a press release, the Wildlife Coalition charges the Senate went against statute and circumvented the ranking process for the first time in 25 years. Using the formula, Frank said, presented several advantages.
“You knew the money was being spent well, not for earmarks,” she said, adding the Senate essentially “cherry-picked” projects pushed by one senator or another, but ignored more deserving projects.
The Senate changed the statute in the budget in order to get around established rules, according to Frank. Both the House and the budget proposed by Gov. Jay Inslee followed the old formula, she added. Frank said her group and others would lobby the Senate to do the same.
“We’re trying to put a lot of pressure on the Senate,” she said.
State Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, said he does not agree with the coalition’s assessment of the budget situation. Did the Senate ignore the usual prioritizing method? Mullet didn’t hesitate to say it did. But he also argued the $3.1 million for Sunset Beach was never going to materialize.
Mullet said to fully fund the Washington Wildlife Program request would have cost $97 million. The program request did include the dollars for Sunset Beach, but Mullet added no one in Olympia ever has suggested fully funding the WWRP request. House Democrats proposed the highest funding level and that only reached $75 million. The beach project “never cleared the line,” Mullet said.
As negotiations on a new budget continue between the House and Senate, Mullet said he considers it his job to protect the funding that is in the budget for Lake Sammamish State Park.
The beach project would include three new picnic shelters, picnic tables and new barbecues among other amenities, Frank said.