(AFP) – Jul 22, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO — California Republicans vowed to support the state's proposed budget on Wednesday after reaching a compromise over prison spending cuts which had triggered threats of a veto.
The deal aimed at plugging California's 26.3 billion dollar deficit had looked in jeopardy Tuesday after Republicans reacted angrily to a measure in the budget which would reduce the state's prison population by 27,000.
State Assembly Republican leader Sam Blakeslee vowed to block the budget when it is voted upon on Thursday after accusing Democrats of a "double-cross."
"Throughout budget negotiations we insisted that Republican votes would never be provided for a budget deal that included early release of prisoners," Blakeslee said in an email released late Tuesday.
Reports said the inmate reduction would be achieved through a combination of measures including allowing prisoners to finish their sentences on home detention and creating incentives for completion of rehabilitation plans.
California Corrections Secretary Matthew Cate said the inmate reduction plan had been wrongly characterized as an "early release" of prisoners.
"Some people have been describing this as a 26,000 or 27,000 early release. It?s not. Some of these folks would never go to prison in the first place," Cate told Southern California Public Radio.
The furore was settled Wednesday after lawmakers agreed to remove the prison spending section from Thursday's budget vote. A vote on what form the prison spending cuts would take would be held next month, officials said.
A spokeswoman for Blakeslee confirmed Republican lawmakers would now support Thursday's budget deal, which has been widely criticized by local governments and public sector employees since the agreement was reached on Monday.
California's fiscal woes have deepened as the state reels under the effects of the recession, which have sent unemployment and home foreclosures soaring and state revenues plunging to levels not seen since the 1990s.
The budget crisis pushed the state to the brink of bankruptcy and forced California to start paying its bills with IOUs earlier this month.
Monday's deal reportedly allows for some 15 billion dollars in spending cuts, including slashing around nine billion dollars from schools, community colleges and state university programs.
It also cuts around 1.3 billion dollars from a state health care program for the poor as well some 124 million dollars from a scheme to provide health insurance to more than 900,000 children in low-income households.
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