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Adventures in Motherhood

State Workers Urge Vetoes for Portions of New WA Budget

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Published on Mon, May 3, 2010 by Chris Thomas

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OLYMPIA, Wash. - Governor Christine Gregoire's pen is poised over the new budget bill, and she's getting some last-minute pressure to change it. State employees who work at the Maple Lane School at Centralia in Thurston County, western Washington, insist it should not be closed as part of budget cuts. They say their population at the high-security correctional facility for mentally-ill teens would not mesh with juvenile offenders in other facilities.

Patty Erhardt, who is a counselor at Maple Lane, says she thinks the governor cares, but doesn't fully understand the risks of moving the young residents elsewhere.

"From my perspective, what I see the governor thinking is, 'Well, these are kids, they need to be close to their home and their family.' Ninety percent of the time, their home is the problem. There's a reason why we take 'em away from negative influences like they have in the communities."

Those who support closing Maple Lane say it would happen over three years, giving the state time to make other arrangements for the 235 kids who are there. The Federation of State Employees says the cost estimates for updating other facilities range from about $16 million to $35 million, while closing Maple Lane would save less than $6 million.

Pine Lodge Corrections Center for Women, at Medical Lake near Spokane in Eastern Washington is also slated for closure. Tim Welch with the Federation of State Employees says their concern is that these decisions were based on politics rather than economic sense or community safety.

"Some legislators who have some power have decided, 'I don't like that facility, I think they could be better served in the community,' and yet, there aren't the resources available in the community to do that."

The governor is scheduled to sign the budget bill on Tuesday. Welch says that's also when the union is holding what it calls a 'strategy session' about the future of Pine Lodge, with two local state lawmakers in attendance. It starts at 4 p.m. at the Pine Lodge facility in Medical Lake.

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