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Old 05-18-2005, 08:41 AM
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Default Gregoire signed bill for new prison in Franklin County

Monday, May 16, 2005 · Last updated 5:11 p.m. PT

Gregoire signs new construction budget, education study


OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Gov. Christine Gregoire on Monday signed a $3.3 billion state construction budget that includes a new state prison in Franklin County and hundreds of public school and college projects.

The governor also authorized a major two-year study of the public education system, including stable financing of programs from pre-kindergarten through college.

Gregoire said the education-rich construction budget will double the state's matching funds for locally approved construction and repair levies - $617 million overall.

Higher education has a stellar budget, too, she said, with $890 million for construction projects on virtually every campus.

Community colleges are in line for $461 million for 64 projects, the University of Washington and Washington State University share $261 million, and the other four-year universities get $168 million.

Her signature means a new 1,290-bed prison will be built at Connell, for $179 million. It's the first new prison since Stafford Creek near Aberdeen, and it's not a minute too soon to begin construction, since the state system is jammed to overflow, she said.

The state is shipping hundreds of felons out of state and hundreds more to county jails that currently have excess space. Even with those 1,000 inmates handled through rent-a-cell programs, the state system still is about 10 percent over capacity, with crowding particularly severe at Shelton.

Gregoire said if the state is serious about being tough on crime, it needs to build adequate prison space and invest in drug treatment.

Gregoire had wanted a 2,000-bed prison, privately financed but publicly operated. The Senate rejected the private financing option and downsized the project, and the House went along.

Gregoire said that means the Franklin County prison will need another wing in a few years, but said she was happy to get a prison of any size through the Legislature. Two years ago, lawmakers flatly refused to build another facility.

Gregoire said she was disappointed that lawmakers rejected her plan to allow early release of some inmates - conditioned on drug and alcohol treatment. The cycle of crime and prison overcrowding won't be eased until prisoners kick their drug habits and stay clean, she said in an interview.

Still, Gregoire had high praise for the construction budget. She said it will give a nice lift to the economy by providing 24,000 direct and spinoff jobs and will provide some badly needed projects.

She brought in a parade of ordinary citizens and program directors from around the state to tout various sections of the budget - some Little League players from Vancouver who get new ballfields, the school superintendent from Snohomish, the president of Peninsula College, a Boys & Girls Club executive, a shellfish grower from Shelton.

The new budget provides money for drought relief, Hood Canal cleanup, military base-related projects, Lewis and Clark bicentennial projects, and dozens of local projects, including a $5 million grant for restoring county courthouses.

The signing ceremony was attended by House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, and the construction budget chairmen, Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, and Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish.

At a separate ceremony, the governor approved a package of 10 education bills, including one creating a two-year study of the state's entire education system, from preschool to graduate school. Gregoire and state School Superintendent Terry Bergeson said the blue-ribbon panel will look at education as a whole, identifying changes and gaps that have developed since the basic education laws and financing system were updated nearly 30 years ago.

"It's about good policy, and not just about money," Bergeson said.

The Washington Education Association, the main teachers' union, strongly supports the study, spokesman Rich Wood said.

"The world has changed tremendously," he said. "We have standards that weren't in place 30 years ago. We have all-new technology. We have a diverse student population."

Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, said the new panel will build on the information and suggestions of earlier groups, including a House study just last year. The extra dimension will be studying the entire system, rather than separate pieces, he said.

"We have a whole bunch of problems, but you can't deal with them in isolation," he said. "It's like pushing down on a waterbed or punching a balloon - it just pops up someplace else."

Gregoire will head the group. Legislators and citizens will round out the effort. Preliminary reports are due this fall and next summer. The final recommendations are due Nov. 15, 2006.

The governor also signed:

-Bills designed to clean up Hood Canal.

-A measure to stiffen penalties for cock fighting, dog fighting and animal cruelty.

-Legislation aimed at halving the problem of homelessness over the next decade. The state will work with counties to develop more housing. A $10 surcharge is added to each document recorded by county auditors.

-A bill requiring a study of alternatives to the Washington Assessment of Student Learning to show mastery of graduation requirements.


The construction budget is SB6094. The education study bill is SB5441.


On the Net:

Legislature: http://www.leg.wa.gov

Gov.: http://www.governor.wa.gov
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Old 05-18-2005, 03:21 PM
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This is great news!! It's not an immediate answer to our men coming home, but it sure is a step in the right direction. I'm sending a copy of this article to my man in MN. - I hope this means they can all come home instead of being shipped all over the country.

Thanks so much for posting this!


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Old 05-18-2005, 06:06 PM
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I'm wondering why they didn't stick some of that money into finishing the jail in Yakima that is "half done" that the county scrapped because it was overbudge and so they're just abandoning it. You would think that the DOC could at least utilize that facility for lower level offenders or something.
Nice try
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