Brown Late, Budget in Turmoil

MAR. 1, 2011


Gov. Jerry Brown was late delivering key realignment revisions to California legislators, who seemed befuddled at budget hearings Monday.

The report, on a proposed constitutional amendment on realignment, was made available Feb. 28 to the Legislature’s Conference Committee on the Budget.  However, lawmakers and observers seemed more confused and unsure after the hearing than before receiving the proposal.

Some legislators appeared frustrated with the Brown’s Department of Finance because the realignment report and the language for the constitutional amendment were still under revision. Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said he had been promised the final constitutional amendment language on Friday.

He told Diane Cummins, special advisor to Brown from the Department of Finance, that he wanted assurances that the revised report would be in legislators’ hands before the end of that day. Huff’s office told me it wasn’t delivered yesterday, either.

One change was apparent as finance department representatives offered more details from the realignment report. The administration is “refining” the proposal after the massive outcry from local governments and law enforcement authorities.

The public safety realignment plan to shift the responsibility of parolees to counties was altered to re-define “low-level parolees” to fit a more narrow criterion. This will leave the responsibility of the more dangerous parolees and juvenile offenders where it currently is, with the state.

A key element of Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to save the state money has been to push some law enforcement responsibilities down to local governments.

Cummins explained that the adjusted realignment proposal released on Friday would save the state $2 billion, and reduce the inmate population by 38,000 by 2014-15. It would do so by having counties house non-serious and non-violent offenders in county jails.

The Department of Finance estimated the savings of approximately $50,000 per inmate, which could lead to prison closures for an even greater overall savings to the state. There was no discussion, however, of farming out inmates to other states, which has saved the state money, over housing them in our state prisons.

The Brown administration agreed to one change: Pay counties more money for housing inmates who spend more than three years in county jails.

Sen. Mark Leno, the committee’s co-chairman, expressed concern with the corrections department’s “poor performance record.” California’s recidivism rate is more than 70 percent, while the rate in the rest of the country is at 35 percent, said Leno. And San Francisco’s recidivism rate is 78 percent, according to the California Department of Corrections.

Leno was not available to talk after the meeting, but last week published a summary of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review committee’s actions:

In total, the realignment proposal would dedicate $5.9 billion in revenues in 2011-12 to fund a menu of programs shifted from the State to the locals.  The following bullets show the programs and funding in the Governor’s public safety realignment proposal.  Funding for this phase would grow to $7.3 billion by 2014-15.

The areas to be restructured to shift services local governments are:

· Low-Level Offenders – $1.9 billion.

· Child Welfare Services / Child Protective Services – $1.6 billion.

· Parole – $841 million.

· Court Security – $530 million.

· Law Enforcement Grant Programs – $506 million.

· Juvenile Justice – $257 million.

· CalFIRE – $250 million.

· Alcohol and Drug Programs – $184 million.

· Adult Protective Services – $55 million.

The more violent crime categories — solicitation for murder, felony child abuse, felony domestic violence, assault on a peace officer and human trafficking — would be left with state parole officers.

Despite the push for budget cuts, Cummins said that several of the health and human services budgets are “underfunded,” which should be taken into consideration in future funding by counties and the state.

Huff said last week, and reiterated today, that he does not believe legislators will make the March 10 deadline to put Brown’s tax-increase extensions on a June ballot — particularly with the realignment constitutional amendment language revision stalled by the administration.

The budget Conference Committee  hearings continue this week at the Capitol, and can be viewed on The California Channel.

Tags assigned to this article:
deficitJerry BrownKaty Grimesrealignmentbudget

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