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Governor Brown's union favoritism hampers balanced budget

by Chris Hinyub, published

Naturally, spending cuts are an essential part of resolving a $25 billion budget deficit. Governor Jerry Brown has already decreased funding for education, healthcare and environmental programs, but when it comes to bankrolling California's immense prison-industrial complex, he appears to have no interest in frugality.


Less than a week after handing the politically powerful prison guard union a sweet deal by not demanding much of anything in the way of concessions, the governor has announced that he plans to support his cohorts in their lobbying efforts for more prison dollars. The contract Brown approved with the guards left the Legislative Analyst's Office noticeably concerned about the governor's negotiating prowess, as it would mean a $181 million savings shortfall by the state.


On Monday, Brown addressed the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the advocacy group Crime Victims United at a rally in Sacramento. His message:


     "You can't run a prison on hot air. You've got to run it with real money," adding, "I hope you'll tell some of your legislators that we're going to need some money."


Indeed, real money will do the trick, but exactly where that money will come from is anyone's guess. If last week's stunt of signing a bill that will see 30,000 lower level state prisoners transferred to already overcrowded county jails during the next three years is any indication of Brown's intentions, you can bet that local governments will be asked to foot the bill. That means more work (conveniently enough) for the conventional revenue generators of most localities: law enforcers in conjunction with county courts. 


Alongside the prison realignment bill, Brown signed AB 111 to accelerate state bond funding for the building of local jails. This is a telling sign that the governor has no plans of forcing the "criminal justice" industry to take less from the state. It will just grow through an increasing number of locally controlled venues.


State lawmakers have yet to overcome an impasse that has left Brown's prison realignment scheme unfunded. The governor's solution is to extend vehicle and sales tax increases for a five-year funding plan that could give counties $4.9 billion to toss at the problem. It will be a hard sell to get voters to approve these taxes, but he is giving it his best as he travels the state.


Brown expects to save $2 billion annually by transferring state inmates to local jails but the LAO says lawmakers will have to force Brown to renegotiate with his union buddies, or they must "authorize or require administrative actions, such as layoffs" to fill the gaps that have already appeared in the governor's new budget plan.

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