Prison Health Receiver Goes to Schwarzenegger With Funding Request
On Monday, the court-appointed receiver for California's prison health care system asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to invoke his emergency powers, bypass the Legislature and direct $7 billion to construct seven new medical centers for inmates, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports (Thompson, AP/Contra Costa Times, 6/10).
J. Clark Kelso, the receiver, is proposing that Schwarzenegger use his authority under a prison overcrowding emergency he declared in October 2006 to execute a contract with Kelso for the new medical centers and the funding (Rothfeld, Los Angeles Times, 6/10).
Kelso has a court order to bring the level of prison health care to constitutional standards and could ask a federal judge to order that the money be taken directly from the state general fund, at a time when California faces a $15.2 billion budget deficit.
The request follows two failed attempts last month by Kelso to win Legislative approval for the money needed for construction (AP/Contra Costa Times, 6/10).
Kelso initially asked the Senate to pay for the new construction through leasing revenue bonds. After Senate Republicans rejected the bill, Kelso said he would take $500 million from the upcoming fiscal year's budget and $2 billion from the 2009-2010 budget to begin planning and construction.
Republican lawmakers said they do not want to give Kelso the funds until construction of new prison beds begins under last year's prison expansion legislation (AB 900) (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 6/10).
Republicans also said they hope that building the new health care beds in conjunction with the previously passed bill will minimize the chances that a panel of three federal judges monitoring the state prisons will order inmates to be released early because of overcrowding (Los Angeles Times, 6/10).
In a statement, the Schwarzenegger administration said, "The governor believes that lease-revenue bonds are the most cost-effective way to fund the receiver's request and is committed to continuing to work with the Legislature to protect general fund resources" (Sacramento Bee, 6/10).