By Jerry Cornfield
Gov. Chris Gregoire said today lawmakers will likely need to cut a bit more state spending to cover the cost of dealing with Monday night’s protest and arrests in and around the Capitol.
And the sum will keep growing if after-hour demonstrations continue tonight and throughout the special session, she said.
“Their message here is ‘No more cuts.’ Well, if we have to pay overtime and so on, there will be more cuts by this alone,” Gregoire said this afternoon. “We can ill afford in these tough times to spend this money.”
Gregoire said she made the decision not to allow people to stay in the Capitol overnight because of the cost to provide staffing and security. However, she said, if lawmakers are in session, the building will be open to everyone.
“When it is closed to the public it is closed to the public,” she said. “The reason is simple. I don’t have any money. How am I going to afford to pay for it? If people stay overnight in the Capitol I have to have people there, a number of people and the taxpayers can’t afford it and I can’t take more cuts to do it.”
Today, the Washington State Patrol issued a press release saying it had spent $96,000 for staffing for Monday’s wave of demonstrations on the campus which culminated in several arrests when some protesters refused to leave the Capitol.
Of the total, $76,000 covered straight time of troopers who would have been working anyway, $12,000 for overtime and $8,200 for meals and lodging of those troopers brought in from other parts of the state to help out.
“It impacts our budget because it comes out of my operating dollars,” said WSP Chief John Batiste. “It takes away from other things we could be using our resources for. These (troopers) could be out saving lives and preventing tragedies.”
Meanwhile, Gregoire praised the 3,000 people who took part in rallies Monday and departed the Capitol peacefully when it closed at 5:30 p.m.
“The vast majority of people here yesterday expressed themselves, made their voices heard, were respectful and lived by the law and they were heard,” she said. “Those who are not abiding by the law, I can’t hear them.”