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Friday, January 02, 2009

Budget Problems Put Crimp in Re-Entry Facility for Yolo County

Opponents of a proposed re-entry facility for Yolo County have been aided by an expected ally--the state's budget crisis and the nation's economic crisis. According to an article in the Sacramento Bee on Wednesday, the state has been unable to sell bonds to pay for public works projects including $1 billion to fund re-entry facilities.

These problems are also holding up the $750 in jail construction funds including the $30 million the county is relying on from the state to expand the jail in Woodland--one of the major reasons for the county's push to build a re-entry facility.

Last month, the Governor, along with the State Treasurer, Director of Finance and Controller who form the Pooled Money Investment Board shut down all pending construction projects due to a lack of money and a mounting deficit that is expected to reach $41 billion over the next year. Construction costs were $660 million a month.

Moreover the prison is being delayed due to the shut down credit markets according to the Bee.

Officials warn that until a budget plan is passed to cope with the budget crisis, the credit markets will be remain frozen in California.

According to the Bee:
"It would be foolish to predict with any degree of confidence when we can get back into the bond market," said Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for Treasurer Bill Lockyer.


Dresslar said Lockyer and his colleagues on the investment board – State Controller John Chiang and Director of Finance Michael Genest – felt it was more important to pay the bills than to start new projects.

Among the estimated 2,000 projects statewide they put on hold are efforts to fix roads, bolster levees and rehabilitate schools.

"We've got a higher duty to make sure the lights stay on," Dresslar said.

The board will meet again in early January and may consider funding some projects already under way, he said. The re-entry prisons are farther down the list. Corrections officials haven't asked the board for money yet, Dresslar noted."
Apparently there are also problems specifically with prison and jail bonds. Lawmakers are needing to fix those flaws with legislation. Attorney General Jerry Brown will not allow bonds to be issued until those problems are deal with. However, the language to fix the bonds is tied up with the rest of the budget--in stalemate.

According to the Bee, while this is largely good news for opponents of the planned facility in Madison, the group Save Rural Yolo County is continuing its lawsuit. If they are wise, they ought to push on the state legislature to cancel such projects during this time of economic crisis as a means to save money and prevent further bond indebtedness.

It was one thing to spend a billion on prison construction during better economic times, but at this point in time, what's the point? The state needs to take a look at this and other issues regarding the corrections system and fix it. The economic crisis is the perfect impetus for reform that is desperately needed in an outrageously expensive and broken system.

---David M. Greenwald reporting