Friday, July 24, 2009

Memo to the bond market

Ok, I know nothing about bonds (its basically a loan, right?), but I have watched California prisons grow steadily over the second half of my now 50 years. While it looks certain that the California legislature will pass, and the governor sign, the complex budget compromise (read the SFChron coverage), if I were loaning money to the state on the basis of there budgetary projections, I would start worrying now. Specifically, 1.2 billion in savings in the fiscal year is promised from cuts to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Republicans initially balked at voting for the overall package if it included the corrections cuts which assumed prisoner populations reductions (the dreaded early release). They compromised at voting for the 1.2 billion cut without any specification as to how it would be obtained. That will leave the Democratic majority free to enact specific prison policy shifts on a majority vote (rather than the 2/3 constitutionally required for budget resolutions) and the governor, theoretically willing to sign it. But the Republicans have promised a major debate against "early release" backed by law enforcement and the correctional officer's union. It is quiet possible that enough Democrats will defect or that Schwarzenegger will decide not to sign the bills that emerge. More importantly, for any promise of long term sustained correctional cuts to be believable, you need to see the magic words "sentencing commission" in any package of correctional policy changes. Short of that, do not loan us money withoug "juice loan" premiums.

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