OLYMPIA — The Senate in Washington passed a supplemental transportation budget on Tuesday that has been negotiated and agreed upon by leadership in both chambers and includes money to raise the salaries of Washington State Patrol officers.
The budget, which would alter the two-year transportation budget passed last year by $507 million, was approved by a 44-5 vote and will be considered by the House. It would direct $5 million to the state patrol for a five percent salary hike for troopers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains.
A report given to the Legislature this year said many troopers leave the patrol for higher-paying jobs in local law enforcement agencies, creating an “unsustainable drop” in officers.
Patrol Chief John Batiste recently told a Senate panel the patrol loses an average of nine troopers a month.
An amended version of House Bill 2872, which contains the pay raises funded in the transportation budget, also passed the Senate on Tuesday. During floor debate for that proposal, many lawmakers argued the increase wasn’t enough, and officers will continue to be underpaid. Many still voted for the measure that passed 47-1.
“This is a drop in the bucket for what they deserve but it is a good start,” said Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard.
The raises in House Bill 2872 gets troopers “to at least a level they’re competitive” said Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, who added the Legislature needs to “work to keep them there.”
The transportation compromise budget would also provide $1 million for safety improvements at the homeless encampment in Seattle known as “the Jungle.” In late January, two people were killed and three people were injured in a shooting at the encampment, about a mile from downtown. Three teenage boys have since been charged in connection to the drug-related shooting, according to Seattle police.
“This budget has a lot of good things in it,” said Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who praised the money for the Jungle and other measures such as increased funding for eliminating barriers that make it difficult for fish to reach spawning grounds. “There are many projects that help economic development across the state of Washington.”