State budgets get signature, warning from governor

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has signed the state’s capital, operating, and transportation budgets, officially designating funds — and new taxes — to pay for state programs for the next two years.

Along with existing programs, the budgets fund expanded college grants for low and middle-income students, a response to endangered orca whale populations, expanded affordable housing, and the first phase of hybridizing the state’s ferry system.

But Inslee, who signed the budgets Tuesday, also called out a looming funding challenge for state: Fixing culverts — large pipes that allow streams to flow under roadways, but can prevent salmon from reaching their spawning grounds. A federal court case means the state has to fix hundreds of culverts around the state, at a cost some estimates have put as high as $3.5 billion.

Inslee used budget flexibility to increase the total money going to the projects, and warned that legislators would have to add even more money in coming years.