Over Five Billion dollars will go to the State prison system if Governor Gray Davis has his way in the upcoming state budget. The people of this state want to know, Mr. Governor, are you trying to make a penal colony out of the State of California? Increasing the State Department of Corrections budget by $40 million while you’re cutting the educational budget by $5.4 billion dollars is sending a message to the residents of the State of California that building prisons enjoys a far higher priority than educating our children.
Invariably the students that will bear the brunt of the cutbacks in education will be the children of working class Americans and Minorities, who are the most uneducated segment of the state’s population. These are the students who require the bulk of ‘make-up’ educational programs to make up for the past neglect by the educational system of California.
To bring the high costs of incarceration, of more and more of our state residents, for longer and longer times, the Governor should commission a panel of experts to determine what changes should be made in our laws to reduce the prison population and thereby reduce the costs of maintaining so many prisons in our state. We must either have an extremely large criminal element or California’s legislators are prone to criminalize more and more aspects of our daily lives.
It is strange that we, as the most democratic nation in the world, find it necessary to incarcerate more of our citizens than any other country in the world! Our nation has more citizens behind prison bars than either Russia, China, or India, countries that have far greater populations than exists in our country.
Perhaps the time has come to remove the Initiative Petition as means of creating public law. Legislating by petition to determine length of imprisonment, what constitutes a crime, what penalties should be assessed, to name a few, should not be sanctioned by a severely flawed process as the Initiative Petition. As has happened far too often in the past, voters have favored those petitions that are heavily subsided by vested interests.
Before gutting the education of our children, Governor, please revisit the budget and seek cutbacks that will help in resolving our deficit problems. For starters, the Legislature should set the example by eliminating the millions of dollars that they pay themselves and their employees, whether they work or not. Is there any justification to furnish a new car every year to all the elected officials? Look at all the money that could be saved by eliminating all those commissions where the members are paid outrageous salaries (Over $100,000 per year) for attending four meetings a year. It is not a well-kept secret that all those Commissions serve no other purpose than to provide ‘welfare’ for cashiered or termed out Legislators.
Another suggestion is to eliminate all State paid holidays! Millions are squandered every time State employees are paid to honor a state or national hero, or historical holidays. Mexican-Americans and Blacks aren’t fooled they know few of the State employees, who in the main are Anglo-Europeans, don’t really care about César Chávez or Martha Luther King Day. Our citizens should not have to be paid to celebrate the 4th of July, Thanksgiving Day, Presidents Day, etc. There is a lot of PORK in the State budget. The question is: Mr. Governor have you got the political courage to do what is right???