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Proposition 30: Law, government officials also relying on funding

November 2, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
All the talk about Proposition 30, Gov. Brown's tax measure, centers on public school funding.

But law enforcement and local government representatives are worried about the other part of Prop. 30 -- a constitutional amendment that guarantees state funding for realignment, which is the prison inmate shift where counties must now house thousands of low-level inmates who used to go to state prison.

If Prop. 30 fails Tuesday, counties are wondering how they are going to be able to afford this expense.

"If the money goes away, it's going to have a dramatic impact on the way we do business," said Sheriff Keith Royal, president of the California State Sheriff's Association.

Lawmakers have a history of taking money from one program to pay for another. Constitutional protection means politicians can't touch the funds at all unless it goes back to the voters.

The next two budget years already show counties will get more than $6 billion in each of those years to take on new inmates.

"The funding stream would still continue under statute if Proposition 30 is not approved," said H.D. Palmer with the California Finance Department.

But it's after that that worries county officials.

"Priorities change. Legislators may change. Governors may change. Right now, we're pretty much at the whim, so to speak, of the legislative process," said Mike McGowan, president of the California State Association of Counties.

Without state money guaranteed under Prop. 30, counties might have to cutback in other ways to maintain their inmate responsibilities, like rehab programs.

"We're going to see a major reduction in deputies, police officers on the street, which again would dramatically impact public safety," said Royal.

Poll numbers show Prop. 30 remains a very tight race.


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