California Senate Again Rejects $7B Plan for New Prison Health Facilities
For the second time in three days, the California Senate Republicans on Thursday banded together to reject a $7 billion bill (SB 1665) to construct new health care facilities for prisoners, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The plan was created by J. Clark Kelso, the federal court-appointed receiver for prison health care. Kelso is charged with elevating the level of health care in California prisons to a constitutional level (Rothfeld, Los Angeles Times, 5/30).
Republicans said the plan was irresponsible because it is not part of a comprehensive solution to remedy prison overcrowding and medical care (Zapler/Garcia, San Jose Mercury News, 5/30).
Kelso's plan would renovate existing prison clinics and add 10,000 new beds in up to seven new facilities for inmates.
The bill providing the funding -- which was rejected 23-15, largely along party lines -- would have authorized the state to issue $6.9 billion in bonds for the plan and repay them over 25 years. The bill called for $100 million to come from the state general fund (Los Angeles Times, 5/30).
Kelso said he needs $70 million out of the general fund "immediately," an additional $3.43 billion in the 2008-09 fiscal year, $2 billion in 2009-2010 and $1.5 billion in 2010-2011 (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 5/30).
In a letter to Department of Finance Director Michael Genest on Thursday, Kelso wrote that he would get the funds with or without the lawmakers' support (Los Angeles Times, 5/30). As receiver, Kelso can seek a court order to take funds for the project from California's general fund (San Jose Mercury News, 5/30).
If Kelso took the funds from the state's general fund, the state budget deficit could increase from about $15.2 billion to $18.7 billion.
Genest said, "It would be disastrous if we had to pay $3.5 billion next year" (Los Angeles Times, 5/30).
Democratic lawmakers and aides to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) warned that using money from the general fund for the prison health facility construction would force cuts in state spending for other programs (Thompson, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/29).
Republican legislators said they also intend to reject a proposed settlement of a federal court case related to prison health and overcrowding because it would have diverted tens of thousands of inmates to local treatment programs and jails rather than state penitentiaries.
Senate Minority Leader Dave Cogdill (R-Modesto) and Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster) said Republicans would not agree to the settlement because of concerns that it could threaten public safety.
A three-judge panel is expected to hold a hearing today on the case (Los Angeles Times, 5/30).
Republicans earlier said the court receiver's request should be considered with the proposed legal settlement (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/29).
Democratic lawmakers said it is not advisable to try to delay Kelso and federal judges overseeing lawsuits on medical care, mental health, dental care and disability access in California prisons (Los Angeles Times, 5/30).
On Thursday, KPCC's "Patt Morrison" included a discussion of the vote on funding for prison health care facilities. It included comments from:
- H.D. Palmer, deputy director of external affairs for the Department of Finance; and
- Julie Small, a KPCC reporter (Morrison, "Patt Morrison," KPCC, 5/29).