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July 25, 2009

Prison reforms and cuts left uncertain in final California budget deal

Though the details seem murky, it appeals from this local article that California's budget deal, which was finalized late Friday, included some unspecified prison reforms and cuts.  Here are the opaque details:

Of the $25 billion in budget "solutions," $15.5 billion come by way of cuts, with schools ($6 billion) taking the biggest hit. The University of California and California State University systems will be slashed by $2.8 billion; MediCal services are facing a $1.3 billion hit; corrections departments are facing an unspecified $1.2 billion in cuts; and three major welfare programs — the welfare-to-work CalWORKs program, In-Home Supportive Services and the children's health insurance program — stand to lose a total of $878 million.

The rest — about $10 billion — is achieved through one-time raids on local government funding (for a total of $3.4 billion) and accounting maneuvers, such as deferring state employee paychecks by one day for a savings of $1.2 billion. Another $1.7 billion is saved by speeding up tax withholdings on individuals and businesses.

The proposal to allow offshore oil drilling off the Santa Barbara coast in exchange for $100 million in selling the rights, the final issue taken up, fell well short, on a 28-43 vote, a major victory for Democrats and environmentalists.

Earlier, cuts to higher education, college grants, health programs, welfare, in-home supportive services and state prisons barely cleared the required two-thirds threshold in the Senate, on a 27-13 vote, though it went through more easily in the Assembly, on a 57-22 vote.

Republicans had balked over the corrections cuts out of concern they would be seen as favoring a plan that calls for the early release of 27,000 prison inmates. The vote they took was technically for "unallocated" cuts, to be determined when lawmakers return next month after summer recess.

"Tonight we were essentially asked to close our eyes and vote, sight unseen, on funding cuts to public safety," said Sen. Tom Harman, R-Costa Mesa, who voted against the measure. "There were absolutely no details of how those spending reductions would be enacted. Without details, there is no guarantee the cuts would not ultimately result in the early release of 27,000 inmates."

Republicans have been assured that the GOP plan will be considered when lawmakers return from their summer session. But the plan will only require a majority vote, meaning Republican votes will not be needed — and likely will contain some elements of an early release.

Administration officials and Democrats insist that only 6,300 of the inmates would be released early from prison, but don't define it as such, saying the inmates would remain under DOC supervision on house arrest.

There is good coverage of these doings at California Corrections Crisis.

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July 25, 2009 at 05:18 PM | Permalink


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