Accord reached on corrections

Last modified: 6/14/2011 12:00:00 AM
Budget negotiators in the House and Senate tentatively agreed yesterday to cut $13 million from the governor's proposal for the state Corrections Department over the next biennium, setting the stage for privatization efforts within the department.

The cut was proposed by the Senate, which had hoped to use the money to add back 38 troopers to the state police force that would be cut under the House plan. But Rep. Neal Kurk, a Weare Republican on the House Finance Committee, said that has yet to be decided as negotiations continue into today in order to meet a Thursday deadline.

'The link between the two is in the mind of the Senate but not in the mind of the House,' Kurk said. 'The point is: What's an appropriate amount of money to spend on corrections?'

Even with the cut, the Corrections Department's $102 million annual appropriation would be a 2 percent increase over the current year during a tough budget cycle. Kurk said a study committee will convene this fall to look at privatization measures that could save money within the department. One idea has been to move 600 inmates from the aging state prison in Concord to an out-of-state facility.

Gov. John Lynch is 'concerned about what cuts to corrections could mean to public safety,' spokesman Colin Manning said.

Lynch's office is also looking into privatizing functions within the department and is in the process of preparing a request for proposals. But Manning said the governor doesn't intend to reap the benefits of privatization right away.

'We can't count on savings from any of those potential proposals in the next two-year budget,' Manning said.

Corrections was one of several departments on which House and Senate negotiators found little to disagree yesterday, saving some of the more contentious items - including a $50 million difference on health and human services - for later this week. Members also worked into the evening as they approved items in an accompanying trailer bill.

(Matthew Spolar can be reached at 369-3309 or mspolar@cmonitor.com.)




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