Here is the eCapitol report on the funding approved by Department of Corrections that cleared the joint House and Senate Appropriations subcommittee yesterday. It still must be approved by the full house and senate and signed by the governor.
eCap) The House side of the Joint Appropriations and Budget Committee approved $13 million in supplemental funding for the Department of Corrections Monday afternoon. House author and committee Chair Scott Martin said the money would go to fund private prison beds, county jail back up and medical services for inmates.
The committee substitute for SB2126, by Martin, R-Norman, appropriates $13.0 million to the Department of Corrections from cash remaining from fiscal year 2013. The committee substitute also clarifies language related to the agency’s revolving funds. The bill clarifies language related to the Industries Revolving Fund, making its use subject to the approval of the Department of Corrections director.
Asked if it was prudent to give the DOC director so much authority over the revolving fund, Martin said “I wouldn’t have heartburn over that.”
Neville Massie, spokeswoman for DOC, said access to the fund allows for better budget flexibility. Martin said he was assured by current DOC Director Robert Patton that the department would use those funds over 12 months to ensure there is no need for a supplemental in the future.
But some members expressed concerns with setting a precedent by telling agencies to rely on revolving funds versus getting a supplemental.
Massie said the department as a number of revolving funds and the Industrial Revolving Fund is the only one the director has no authority over.
Asked why this particular fund required such legislative oversight, Massie said the statute was first implemented in 1981 and has since then been removed and added back on the books.
Other members also expressed concerns with removing that oversight.
Martin said, “We are not changing how that money gets there or where it comes from. These safeguards will stay in place.”
Rep. Ben Sherrer, D-Choteau, urged members to vote against the measure in debate, saying the bill has the potential to leave smaller counties at a loss for revenue.
“Unless there is some sort of transition plan to take inmates out of smaller counties at a rate that allows counties to allow for that loss of revenue, I’d ask you not to sign off on the bill,” Sherrer said.
Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, expressed his concerns with the two subjects addressed in the bill.
“We are putting substantive policy changes in an appropriations bill; we have to make sure this is done in a proper manner and agencies aren’t left to hang in the wind,” Dorman said. “This will not hold up in the courts.”
Dorman also spoke on concerns about removing legislative oversight and the audit of those funds moving forward.
Martin, however, argued that the bill came about as a request from Patton, who said he could use monies in the fund to help their supplemental request to lessen their total ask.
“They have immediate needs and costs out there that they need to pay the tab on…private beds, county jail back up, medical services…all three of these are costly and they are immediate needs to get through this fiscal year,” Martin said. “I don’t know what happens if we don’t pass this bill but I’d hate to think what happens if we don’t. We’ve known for years corrections has significant needs by authorizing this supplement and the $4 million out of those revolving funds we are able to get them through this fiscal year.”
The measure received a do pass recommendation from the committee, passing by a close vote of 9 to 8.