With regular session in Olympia winding down, the State Legislature and the Governor are hammering out a budget deal that will directly impact Teamsters at the Department of Corrections.

We’ve been tracking the budget negotiations closely, and from what we’ve seen so far, the Senate and the House budget proposals are a mixed bag as far as Corrections is concerned.

Both the Senate and the House are proposing a modest decrease in Corrections’ spending as compared to the 2011-2013 biennium. Whenever legislators talk about “creating efficiencies” to bridge a budget gap, it’s time to start paying attention.

Of particular concern is a proposal contained in both the Senate and House budgets to centralize prison pharmacies that could lead to reduced staffing. We have already filed a demand to bargain over the issue.

We are also closely monitoring SB 5892, a proposal to contract out beds for offenders serving less than 120 day sentences. As currently drafted, we believe the bill would not lead to a loss of jobs.

On the up side, both the Senate and the House budget fully fund our 2013-2015 collective bargaining agreement. Also encouraging, both proposals include funding for “safety improvements”. The Senate appropriates approximately $3.5 million for upgraded radio infrastructure and an additional 25.5 FTEs (new positions for medium security day shift and minimum security graveyard), while the House appropriates $2.8 million for the radio improvements and an additional 18 FTEs (for medium security days only).

We are working hard to see that the Senate funding with respect to safety is included in the final budget, and we may be calling on your to contact your legislators.

We will continue to track the State budget negotiations as they continue beyond the regular 105-day session that officially ended on April 28. Gov. Inslee has called a special session of up to 30 days to begin on May 13. For continued updates on the State budget, be sure to check in at your Union’s website at www.teamsters117.org.