Stateline Story

Federal Budget Cuts Likely for State Justice Programs

FEDERAL BUDGET: The wrangling over next year's federal budget is only beginning, but it already appears likely that some state and local criminal justice programs will be hit by congressionally imposed cuts. President Obama's budget blueprint, for instance, would slice $194 million from a federal program that helps states and localities pay for the incarceration of criminal aliens. Republican appropriators in the GOP-led House of Representatives are pushing for much bigger reductions, including $600 million from the popular COPS program, which states and localities use to hire police officers. Both sides will make their case as budget negotiations gain momentum in the months ahead.

JUVENILE JUSTICE: One notable component of Obama's budget is that he would create a new, $120 million competitive grant program — similar to the Race to the Top initiative in public education - to improve state juvenile justice efforts. The idea would consolidate several existing grants in a new program "that rewards states for tangible improvements in juvenile justice systems," according to the president's proposal .

PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett was one of several attorneys general elected governor last year, but he is the only one who will get to name his own replacement. (That's because Pennsylvania holds its gubernatorial and attorney general elections in different years.) Corbett recently nominated Linda Kelly, a western Pennsylvania prosecutor and fellow Republican, for the job. If confirmed by the state Senate, Kelly would become the first female attorney general in the three decades that the position has been an elective office in Pennsylvania, according to The Morning Call of Allentown .

CONSERVATIVES FOR PRISON REFORM: An op-ed written by famed anti-tax activist Grover Norquist is getting lots of attention in prison reform circles. In the piece, Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, decries the conservative "lock 'em up and throw away the key" mentality that he believes is responsible for an exploding national prison population and the resulting costs to taxpayers. "With nearly every state budget strained by the economic crisis, it is critical that conservatives begin to stand up for criminal-justice policies that ensure the public's safety in a cost-effective manner," Norquist writes. He is not alone. Several Republican governors, including Mitch Daniels in Indiana, Mary Fallon in Oklahoma and Nikki Haley in South Carolina, have prioritized prison reform this year, calling on lawmakers to be — in Fallon's words — both "tough on crime and smart on crime."

FLORIDA PILL MILLS: A budget cut that Governor Rick Scott is planning in Florida is causing worries beyond the state's borders. Some Kentucky officials are concerned that Scott's plan to do away with Florida's prescription-drug tracking program will lead to bigger drug-abuse problems in their own state — which, as Stateline noted last week , already constitute an epidemic. "What they're doing by this is basically setting up billboards across the country saying, 'Come to Florida and get your drugs,'" Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo, a physician, told McClatchy Newspapers . Florida is known nationally for its sprouting of "pill mills," or lightly regulated pain clinics where prescription drugs are available through cash-only transactions, often leading out-of-state traffickers from Kentucky and elsewhere to buy them in bulk. The tracking program seeks to crack down on such sales. 

Tags: Justice