Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed what even his office calls “absolutely terrible cuts” to core services for millions of struggling California families. The Democrats in the Legislature have responded with a proposal to increase revenues by $4.9 billon, a proposal the Republicans have vowed to fight.
While this all too familiar scenario plays out again in Sacramento, wasteful state spending on criminal justice and corrections continues unabated. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has overspent its budget again – by nearly $500 million so far. And the Governor’s May Revise actually proposes an increase in corrections spending of $795 million compared to last year’s budget.
A recent poll by Public Policy Institute of California found that an overwhelming majority (79%) of Californians oppose tax increases to spare prisons and corrections from budget cuts. FBI statistics also show that crime continues to decline, in California and across the country. Experts cite effective investment in violence prevention programs and technology as the reason for the decline.
Yet, California continues to spend more and more on corrections, while proposing to slash the very programs that have helped reduce crime over the last decade.
True, the budgets proposed by the Governor and the Assembly Democrats both contain “cuts” to the CDCR budget of more than $1 billion. Last year’s budget theoretically included cuts of $1.2 billion. But less than half of those theoretical cuts turned into real cuts. And the cuts that did happen were almost all in rehabilitation and education programs.
The proposed cuts on the table this year will prove just as illusory as last year’s. Most of the proposed cuts—$811 million—come from cuts to prison health care. No one has explained how this will be accomplished and if past experience is any lesson, that’s because it won’t be. When the CDCR returns halfway through the year $800 million over budget, the Legislature will once again quietly sign the check.
This is the year for real cuts to corrections. No more fake cuts!