WALLA WALLA - Washington State Penitentiary, and Walla Walla County, won "two key victories" in the recently-passed state budget, local officials said today.
Language in the budget approved by the state House and Senate contains $6.8 million to design new medium and close-custody facilities at the prison and expand the West Complex kitchen facilities. The budget language is also "silent" about job cuts at the penitentiary, said Dave Mastin, a lobbyist hired by the Port of Walla Walla.
"We just made a huge hurdle, this was a major success," Mastin said today.
The money for design work "is a big deal, because it allows us to replace aging facilities with modern, efficient buildings," Mastin said.
The design money was included in Gov. Chris Gregoire's budget request to the Legislature. During the recently-concluded special session, no bills passed to change the governor's request and the budget language did not reflect any reductions at the penitentiary, Mastin said.
Jim Kuntz, Port executive director, said the passage of the design funds and avoiding cuts were "two key victories" for the area. He said work by the Walla Walla Valley Community Task Force "made a difference" in escaping budget cuts that threatened the facility earlier this year.
Mastin, however, cautioned that the community still has a lot of work to do to turn any designs into reality.
"We're in a long haul to get the real results," he said. "Our job this year was just defensive. It was just not to take an inordinate amount of cuts in our work force."
However, Mastin said the budget victories this year were a credit to the work done by the city of Walla Walla, the Port, Walla Walla Community College and the county's legislative delegation, Sen. Mike Hewitt, Rep. Maureen Walsh and Rep. Terry Nealey.
"It was a team effort all the way around," he said.