On Wednesday, April 3, the Washington State Senate released its 2013-2015 operating budget at a news conference in Olympia. The Senate’s version of the budget can be viewed here. Later, in the afternoon of April 3, there was a public hearing on the Senate budget proposal. (We will include a link to video of the hearing as soon as it is available on TVW.)

The Senate budget provides for $1.8 billion for corrections and other criminal justice initiatives. The proposal represents a 0.5 percent spending decrease from the 2011-2013 biennium.

To support its budget proposal, the Senate is considering several bills, including SB5892 which involves the Department of Corrections. SB5892 would allow the DOC, among other things, to contract County beds to house offenders serving 120 days or less. By doing so, the State hopes to avoid opening or building new units to deal with projected prison population increases.

While SB5892 is not likely to result in the elimination of current jobs at the DOC, your Union has concerns about the State contracting out members’ work to local jurisdictions. Local 117 Lobbyist Teresita Torres will be monitoring the bill closely.

Some good news: The Senate’s budget proposal allocates $3.5 million to increase correctional officer staffing levels in stand-alone minimum security facilities on graveyard shift and medium security housing units on day shift. While these changes do not come close to fully satisfying the need for more boots on the ground, they are a step in the right direction.

The Senate’s budget comes in the wake of the Governor’s budget proposal, which was released on March 28. There appear to be no serious concerns in the Governor’s budget with respect to Local 117 members at the Department of Corrections. The House is expected to release its operating budget in the week of April 8.

We will continue to keep you updated on ongoing developments in Olympia. Check in at your Local Union’s website at www.teamsters117.org.