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Published on Friday, July 7, 2017

Budget includes boost in public defense grants

The new state budget includes a boost in public defense grants for cities. This issue was finally addressed thanks to the hard work and diligence of a number of cities. AWC supported several bills this session including SB 5676 to try to fix an issue created when the 2015-17 budget was adopted, but these bills failed to advance. We appreciate the work that went into ensuring that this fix was included as a budget proviso.

In January 2014, new misdemeanor public defense standards took effect as mandated by the Supreme Court. The result was increased public defense service costs for many cities and counties. AWC, the Washington Association of Counties (WSAC), and the Office of Public Defense (OPD) sought additional revenues to help offset these new costs. In 2015 we were successful in getting the Supreme Court to adopt a modest increase in the base infraction fine, and subsequently, in asking the Legislature to dedicate $900,000 per year of that new revenue to OPD for the public defense grant program. However, the new money was still subject the old split of 90 percent to counties and 10 percent to cities. AWC and WSAC worked jointly on this effort and had agreed to share any new funding equally. The newly adopted 2017-19 budget corrects the split effectively dedicating $450,000 to cities’ public defense grants.