Governor Asks for $7 Billion for Prison Health Care Upgrades
On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) administration asked the Legislature to provide $7 billion to construct long-term chronic care facilities at state prisons and to upgrade current medical facilities at state prisons, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The plan -- which would be overseen by the prison health care receiver, J. Clark Kelso -- would create nearly 10,500 new health care beds.
H.D. Palmer, a spokesperson for the Department of Finance, said the upgrades would "bring the level of health care in [the] correctional system up to a constitutionally acceptable standard after years and years of underinvestment."
Kelso said 75% of the new beds would be provided in open-dorm "sheltered living" settings and 25% would be similar to assisted-living and licensed nursing home facilities.
He also said maximum- and minimum-security prisoners who currently live in single-bed cells would be transferred to nearly 5,000 of the health care beds, which would help reduce state prisons' overcrowding problem (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 4/12).
Each of the new facilities would house up to 1,500 inmates, and the construction of the facilities would be completed by mid-2013, according to Kelso's plan (Thompson, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/11).
The new proposal would increase the proposed cost of the state's prison construction plans to $14.7 billion, including funds approved in last year's construction plans.
If the state borrowed all of the money requested in Kelso's plan, taxpayers would have to pay $1.2 billion annually to repay the debt (Rothfeld, Los Angeles Times, 4/12).
Kelso's proposal also seeks $6 billion in lease revenue bonds for the long-term chronic care facilities, as well as $900 million in bond funds and $100 million from the state's general fund to upgrade the state's 33 current facilities.
Kelso said he has already received cost estimates from one construction company and is seeking a "second opinion" to undertake the construction in the most cost-effective way possible.
Today, a Senate budget subcommittee will question Kelso about the plan, the funding request and how the new request relates to funding that the Legislature approved last year.
If Legislators do not approve the additional funding, Kelso could ask a federal judge to waive state procedures and order the state to provide the funding (Sacramento Bee, 4/12).