20th District lawmakers request veto to keep Maple Lane School open
Politically motivated closure costs more than it saves, legislators say
State Reps. Gary Alexander and Richard DeBolt have delivered a letter to Governor Christine Gregoire asking her to veto provisions in the state budget that would result in the closure of Maple Lane School. The supplemental budget adopted during the 2010 session would reduce the operating capacity in the school next year by 30 percent and completely close the facility by fiscal year 2013. A careful veto would allow the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (JRA) to keep the school open, the two local lawmakers said.
A study was conducted in 2009 to find efficiencies in the state's juvenile justice system, but it was limited to weighing the option of closing either Green Hill or Maple Lane. An earlier study demonstrated that the most logical and cost-effective step to save money in the juvenile justice system was to close the JRA facility in Naselle.
“The politics of this decision have tainted the outcome,” said DeBolt, R-Chehalis. “That's why we are asking for a veto to keep Maple Lane as part of the juvenile justice system. We need to go back and evaluate every option to determine how the state can best protect public safety and provide services to juvenile offenders in the most cost-effective manner. We certainly don't want to spend more of the taxpayers' money than is necessary. But keeping communities safe and getting young people the services they need are not responsibilities we can afford to compromise.”
The 20th District lawmakers said the way the state banks savings from the closure of Maple Lane is questionable. The budget assumes $5.8 million in savings this biennium by closing the school. But it calls for borrowing $5 million from a state efficiency account to pay for the extra services that must be added or expanded in other juvenile facilities as a result of the closure. The state is also expected to have to make $17 million in capital improvements to other facilities to make room for the juveniles being transferred from Maple Lane.
“The savings, if there are any, appear marginal. This approach would certainly cost taxpayers a lot more in the short term,” said Alexander, R-Olympia. “The Legislature just went through an agonizing exercise of raising $800 million in taxes to fill a $2.8 billion budget hole. This financing scheme for juvenile justice is the kind of budgeting that got us into this fiscal mess in the first place. We're borrowing money to pay for operating expenses and to make the bottom line look better, when the most logical and most cost-effective solution – closing Naselle – is not even on the table.”
The Legislature adopted the supplement operating and capital budget at the conclusion of the 30-day special session that ended April 13. The governor has until May 6 to take action on the budget.
For more information contact: Lisa Fenton, Communications Director, (360) 786-7728
###Washington State House Republican Communications