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California prison overseer tells Schwarzenegger he needs $7 billion to fix health care

California prison overseer tells Schwarzenegger he needs $7 billion to fix health care

The court-appointed receiver who oversees medical care in California's prisons asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday to invoke his emergency powers to provide $7 billion to improve inmate care.
Court-appointed receiver J. Clark Kelso has been given broad authority by federal courts to fix the largest U.S. state prison system's medical and mental health care, treatment so poor it has been ruled unconstitutional.
Kelso and the Legislature, however, have been unable to agree on where the funding to fix it should come from. The state Senate has blocked borrowing that Kelso says he needs to fix medical care for the state's more than 170,000 prisoners.
If the receiver does not get his way, a judge could order the money taken directly from the state treasury.
To avoid that, Kelso wants the governor's office to bypass the Legislature and sign a contract authorizing up to $7 billion for the medical care expansion. The money would go toward seven health care centers that would house 10,000 inmates in need of medical attention and mental health treatment.
An appellate court decision last week upheld the governor's power to bypass the Legislature when public safety is at risk. The Third District Appellate Court in Sacramento upheld Schwarzenegger's 2006 emergency order to send as many as 8,000 inmates to private prisons in other states.
"The federal court clearly wants me to try everything I can think of under state law before coming to the court for more direct intervention," Kelso said in a telephone interview.
Kelso did not specify where the money should come from, but says he needs it in installments through 2015.
Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor does not want to sidestep lawmakers. The governor believes borrowing is needed, but wants to work with the Legislature, McLear said.
Schwarzenegger and legislative Democrats say the only alternative to borrowing is to take the money from the state's general fund, which pays for most state programs and services. The state is facing a $15.2 billion deficit in the fiscal year that begins July 1, effectively eliminating that alternative.
Borrowing requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of the Legislature, giving minority Republicans veto power over the bonds _ unless Schwarzenegger issues them unilaterally.
Republicans said Schwarzenegger would be overstepping his authority if he chose to do so, despite last week's appellate court ruling. Assembly minority Leader Mike Villines predicted a legal challenge if Schwarzenegger agrees to use his emergency powers.


Updated : 2021-05-15 22:18 GMT+08:00