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Stop State Raids of Local Government Funds to Protect Vital Services

California Inmate Release Plan Begins

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Chino Hills District Office:
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Staff Members:
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District Secretary
March 2010

Stop State Raids of Local Government Funds to Protect Vital Services


Click the following link to view Supervisor Ovitt's Video:
http://www.sbcounty.gov/bosd4/multimedia/ViewVideo.aspx?vid=173

You know that old saying, "Robbing Peter to pay Paul"? That's what State government has been doing for years, and the Peter in this case is local government. To balance the state budget, the governor and Legislature regularly borrow, raid or otherwise redirect billions meant to be used by cities and counties.

California's cities, counties and special districts provide parks, libraries, after-school programs for at-risk youth, community health clinics, public hospitals, senior services, and welfare and social services for low-income families. Local and regional public-transit systems provide bus, rail and shuttle services that get families to work, school, medical appointments or the grocery store.

But these vital local services have taken a devastating hit in recent years, in part because of the sagging economy, but also due to state lawmakers raiding billions of dollars in local government funds year after year. In just the last budget cycle, Sacramento borrowed $2 billion in property taxes from local governments; took $2.05 billion in local redevelopment funds which are vital to providing affordable housing, jobs and economic growth in urban areas; and shifted $910 million in transit funding away from local transit agencies, forcing major service cutbacks and fair increases upon working families least able to afford it.

Importantly, this measure only protects EXISTING revenues that already are dedicated to local government, transportation and public- transit programs and services. It does not dedicate any new funding to these programs and does not take any funds away from state programs or services. In fact, it’s "revenue neutral" for the State. A strong argument can even be made that the measure actually benefits the State financially.

For instance, the State recently paid $275 million in interest and issuance costs to securitize $1.9 billion of the $2 billion it borrowed from local governments under Prop. 1A in last year's budget. That's $275 million fewer dollars available for schools, children’s healthcare, or other State-funded programs.

What's more, various courts have now ruled that previous raids of public transit and redevelopment funds were illegal, blowing multi-billion dollar holes in the State budget that will force deeper service cuts to State programs down the line.

Untangling the messy relationship between the State and local governments will also force an honest conversation in Sacramento about what revenues are needed to sustain adequate funding for schools, social services and other State programs.

Under the current system, the State simply dips into local government funds as a band-aid measure, masking the State’s true revenue challenges and pushing the fiscal problems further down the road.

There are a lot of discussions these days about "reform" in Sacramento that run the political and policy gamut. But almost everyone agrees that moving government closer to the people – where there’s more accountability and where essential services are delivered to the people – is the logical place to start.

California Inmate Release Plan Begins

The state's controversial plan to reduce its prison population by 6,500 inmates over the next year began a few weeks ago, with victims and law enforcement groups once again warning it will increase crime.

I am concerned for the public's safety particularly since one day after the program started, a just released inmate raped and beat a young women in Sacramento.

We understand that this is a move by the Legislature to help relieve prison overcrowding and save money in the budget. But I’m very disappointed that public safety seems to have taken a back seat to other issues.

The idea, which opponents label an "early-release" plan, was hammered out last year during contentious budget talks.

The plan calls for inmates deemed low-risk offenders to earn credits on their prison sentences by completing rehabilitation and education programs.

In addition, offenders deemed low-risk would not be subject to parole supervision upon release from prison, meaning they would be less likely to be returned to prison for minor parole violations.

Corrections officials say the effort will result in a gradual release of low-level offenders over the course of the year rather than a mass exodus today.

State Corrections director Matthew Cate has called the plan a "landmark achievement" in increasing public safety because it calls for parole agents to focus on higher risk parolees and cuts their average workloads from 70 parolees to 48.

Under the plan, convicts not subject to parole supervision still will be subject to law enforcement searches. Opponents say that is meaningless in practice.

The one condition imposed on the released inmates, that they may be searched without a warrant, is a pretense that there are at least some limitations and oversight in place.

However, since local law enforcement doesn't even know who these inmates are, there is no substance to the search condition.

The administration has said prison officials will assess inmates to determine who can be deemed low-risk. The process of reviewing the files of more than 20,000 inmates could take up to four months.

Prison officials say that ultimately this will allow probation agents to keep their eye on more serious individuals. You start changing your prison population to the people who need to be in there rather than just rotating people in for four months at a time.

The state faces a court edict to reduce its prison population by roughly 40,000 in coming years.

Law enforcement officials said they understand the inmate release will be gradual but expressed frustration at the notion of offenders returning to their communities – without supervision – at the same time budgets are being slashed and officers are getting laid off.

A lot of it depends on what prisoners they send back, Even though these offenders are supposedly low-level felons, but they're still felons. One of the unintended consequences of the plan may be increased costs for local jails and courts.

Unfortunately, we may be on the verge of a real crisis in criminal justice in California.