Thursday, March 4, 2021
March 4, 2021

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State employees: Shutdown would put public safety at risk

By , Columbian Political Writer
Published:

On Tuesday afternoon, David Holbrook said he received an impersonal email warning him he would be temporarily laid off starting the first of July if lawmakers don’t pass a two-year operating budget.

“You may not perform any work during the temporary layoff and will not receive pay for any work day for which you are temporarily laid off,” the email states.

Holbrook, a Hazel Dell resident, is a community corrections officer who supervises about 40 convicted felons — many of them violent offenders — who have be released from custody.

“I’m very concerned. State workers are no different from anyone else. They have bills to pay and as community correction workers, our job is to protect the community,” he said.

Some of the felons Holbrook supervises are aware of the partisan gridlock in Olympia that has driven the governor to call two special legislative sessions.

“Anytime they think there is going to be a time where we aren’t going to be around, there’s going to be mischief,” Holbrook said.

Lawmakers have until midnight on June 30 to adopt a two-year operating budget and avert a partial government shutdown. Temporary layoff notices went to approximately 26,000 state employees on Tuesday.

Vancouver resident Heather Pyles, who works in the Washington State Patrol’s crime lab, said laying off people in her department could delay identifying individuals who have committed crimes and are on the loose.

“The work we do is very important to public safety,” she said.

Even though she knew the notice was coming, it was still “unnerving,” she said.

Michael Miller, an assistant park ranger at Paradise Point State Park in Ridgefield, has a different perspective.

“I have no control over it, so I can’t worry about it,” Miller said.

Plus, he’s betting the Legislature will sign a budget in time to avoid a shutdown. Two years ago he received the same notice. The state has never had a government shutdown, but lawmakers have come close in previous years.

The state’s universities and community colleges would still be open under a partial government shutdown. But state parks would shutter and would kick campers out over the holiday weekend.

Holbrook said he’s hoping lawmakers “do the right thing.”

“We elected them to do our state businesses and pass the budget so our communities stay safe. They need to put politics aside and do what’s best for the state of Washington and all our communities,” he said. “They need to do their job, so we can do ours.”

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