- Associated Press - Friday, March 25, 2016

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Troopers with the Washington State Patrol are getting a raise.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed a bill that increases salaries as a way to stop waves of troopers from taking higher paying jobs at local police departments.

Patrol Chief John Batiste recently told a Senate panel that the patrol loses an average of nine troopers a month.

Beginning July 1, patrol officers will get a 5 percent pay boost. In addition, troopers and sergeants will get a previously negotiated 3 percent increase in July.

“I think it lets the troopers know that they are in fact greatly appreciated,” Batiste said Friday, adding it will help the patrol keep sustainable ranks in the future.

Beginning pay varies by geographical area, but after the raises, a first-year trooper in King County will make almost $63,000 a year. A first-year trooper in Pierce County will make about $59,000.

The bill also requires salaries for troopers and sergeants to be competitive with local agencies starting next July; expands marketing efforts to help recruit new troopers; and makes other departmental changes to retain current officers.

A first-year Seattle police officer makes about $13,400 more than a first-year trooper in King County under current pay scales, not including other benefits.

Inslee signed 22 other bills approved by the Legislature on Friday including the transportation budget that provides $5 million for the patrol’s pay raise this year and $1 million for cleanup and safety efforts in the Seattle homeless encampment known as “The Jungle.”

Lawmakers have had trouble agreeing on some key legislation, but there appeared to be general consensus on raising trooper salaries.

Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, said trooper pay needs to be comparable to local police departments and said the new 5 percent pay raise should be just a start.

When she was the Kitsap County commissioner from 2000-2008, the county sheriff’s office frequently hired away state troopers, according to Angel.

“We stole trooper after trooper because they were well trained and underpaid,” she said.

The initial $5 million for the state patrol will come from reserves in the state patrol highway account. After that, an extra $3.25 of every $30 state car tab fee will be reallocated for the future pay raises.

A more fair compensation package is still necessary for the patrol to be competitive with some local police departments, Inslee said after the bill signings.

“But I’m glad that this got done this year,” he added. “We’re going to continue to work on it.”

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