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Supplemental transportation budget approved by Legislature

by caprecord

The Legislature has approved a supplemental transportation budget that gives Washington State Patrol troopers a pay raise and aims to fix congestion on the Interstate 405 corridor.

House Bill 2524 passed out of the House on Wednesday on a vote of 86-10. It was approved Tuesday by the Senate, 44-5.

The supplemental budget makes about $507 million in changes to the state’s two-year transportation budget, including additional money for ferries, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and better safety at the “jungle” homeless encampments in Seattle. It also has $45 million from toll funds to improve traffic on the Interstate 405 corridor.

“I’d like to remind everybody that we do two year budgets around here and it’s not a major change from what we did last year, but there are few new things,” Rep. Judy Clibborn, D- Mercer Island said in support. ”We have done good work working together with the Senate.”

The budget also includes $5 million dollars for Washington State Patrol salary increases. Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, emphasized the need for higher salaries.

“We do need to bump their pay up a little bit. We are losing too many of them and I’m afraid we are going to lose too many more between now and the time we write the next biennial budget,” he said.

Immediately following the passage of the supplemental transportation budget, the House passed a related bill that aims to improve recruitment and retention of Washington State Patrol troopers.

House Bill 2872 directs state agencies to implement the recommendations of the Washington State Patrol Trooper Recruitment and Retention Study released in January, which includes paying competitive salaries. The bill passed out of the House, 92-4, and out of the Senate, 47-1.

Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, said the salary increases will be staged, rather than dispersed at one time. It includes a five percent increase for troopers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains.

“We are losing a lot of great state patrol officers through retirement,” he said. “Lots of the troopers are leaving for greener salaries and other law enforcement agencies.”

Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, said that he was a reluctant yes vote.

“I’m not reluctant because of the pay that it dedicates to our troopers. I’m reluctant because it’s not enough to stop the bleeding,” he said. “I don’t believe that its going to be enough commitment.”

The bill specifies that WSP trooper salaries must be the “average compensation paid to the corresponding rank” of law enforcement officers at six other agencies around the state — including the Seattle Police Department, King County Sheriff’s Office and the Spokane Police Department. To determine that average compensation, the bill directs the Office of Financial Management to conduct a survey of each of the six agencies.

Both bills now go the governor for his signature.

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