How the New State Budget is Boosting Seattle Cultural Groups

Millions of dollars are going toward several Seattle non-profit organizations.
| Updated: November 27, 2018

Last week the state Legislature passed the $4.2 billion state capital budget for 2017-19. The budget had been held up since the end of last year’s legislative session, held hostage to finding a compromise over water rights issues that impacted rural areas. But in the new 2018 session, an infrastructure-for-water compromise was achieved.

The effect of the stalemate, though, was to delay funding for many key projects around the state, from parks and trails to mental health facilities, to college campus improvements, to affordable housing, and much more. You can see a list of construction projects in the budget here.

The delay sent some non-profit groups scrambling to stay on schedule or to secure interim financing to keep their projects on track since expected state funding was essentially withheld. With the current Seattle building boom, for example, a delay could put a major construction project behind and force rebidding, which could make projects more expensive or add the unexpected cost of borrowing to cover a temporary funding gap.

The impact of uncertainty was felt by Seattle arts and culture groups. For example, held up were grants of $1.52 million each for the Town Hall’s renovation, the Pacific Northwest Ballet school, Seattle Opera and the recently approved expansion of the Volunteer Park Asian Art Museum. Also in limbo were major grants for Benaroya Hall, expanding the Pratt campus, and building the new Hugo House. These have been funded now, among a total of $12 million in arts grants across urban, rural and suburban Washington.

The Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus is getting over $24 million for their new natural history museum that is already well underway. That represents a quarter of the funding for a $99 million project.

A variety of Seattle historic preservation projects also are getting funds from the state’s Heritage Capital Grants program. Close to home the grants include funds to help with the rehabilitation of the Stimson-Green mansion on First Hill, renewal of the Yamasaki Courtyard at the Pacific Science Center, a Museum of Flight roof repair project, energy and safety improvements to the Craftsman-style Mt. Baker Community Club, and renovation of the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center. Total statewide grants total nearly $9 million. Other state historic grant funds will go to restore old barns, pioneer cemeteries, and county courthouses.

The grants usually pay for only a portion of projects, which are otherwise largely funded by non-profit groups and private donations. They play a key role in allowing groups to leverage fundraising. It’s great to see that Washington’s cultural infrastructure is getting a boost from Olympia at last.

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