Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat whose committee oversees prison operations, said the $45 million in additional funding will be advanced from the state's next budget, as promised by legislative budget leaders.Remarkable: Promising to deliver money in 2012 that won't be budgeted till 2013. Given this year's budget wrangling and the likelihood that the gap between budget and revenue will be even greater in 2013, one wonders if that's a promise legislative leaders can keep?
Whitmire said he will initiate hearings in January to "look at all alternatives for prison medical care: regional hospitals, UTMB, private companies — all options will be on the table." ...
UTMB "was prepared to walk and they still want out of everything except the care in Galveston," Whitmire said. "That wouldn't solve anything right now, except it might put the system into crisis."
That $45 million entirely wipes out the paltry $5.5 million in "savings" the Lege claimed to find in TDCJ's budget. As Grits wrote yesterday, the only real way to reduce costs at TDCJ is to change policies to incarcerate fewer people. Slashing medical budgets without reducing the number of patients was always a non-starter, and Texas' spending on prison healthcare per capita is already among the lowest among states. If legislators want to cut prison health costs, they must reduce the number of prisoners, starting with the oldest and sickest among them. Any other approach - regional hospitals, privatization, etc. - amounts to a band aid that fails to address the core malady underlying TDCJ's budget infirmity.