News headlines this morning report that Arkansas prison officials think they need up to $100 million for a new prison simply to accommodate the current prison population, which is expected to continue to grow. They’ll also need $25 million to operate it.
Reason: Prisons are already bulging with lifers and others with long sentences who won’t be leaving prison any time soon. Add to that the rising population from get-tough-on-parolees initiatives Add to that the pronounced desire (particularly by the Republican majority) for tougher sentencing still. You do the math:
$100 million for a prison.
$25 million for operations.
A $100 million income tax cut proposed by Asa Hutchinson.
A Republican Senate majority’s wish to kill Obamacare and end the hundreds of millions it ships into Arkansas each year.
The loss of millions in expenditures as rural hospitals fail.
The loss of millions in revenues from the last session’s income and capital gains tax cuts that mostly benefitted the wealthiest Arkansans.
Republican congressional candidate’s promise to slash federal spending, which comes back to Arkansas in greater volume than we send to Washington.
Bottom line: Deficits as far as the eye can see. Not in the budget, because that’s not allowed in Arkansas under the constitution. But education, infrastructure, quality of life, growth. There WILL be blood letting.
PS — The answer isn’t drug courts, which — if operated properly — don’t really save any money, not with proper supervision and rehabilitation support.