March 11, 2010
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As always, my commitment is to keep you informed of issues during the Legislative session. This week, the Senate and House began the daunting task of formulating preliminary recommendations to craft a budget for 2010-11. This session is particularly difficult as shortfalls continue to exist in the State’s budget. I am proud of our relationship with the PBA and we are working hand-in-hand to protect the safety and security of you, your families and the public at large.
Yesterday morning in the Florida Senate, the Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee released its first draft of its public safety budget. There will likely be many amendments to their recommendations over the coming weeks. Later that afternoon, the House Criminal and Civil Justice Committee began a discussion on its budget approach, but will not formalize any preliminary recommendations until next week. I know that you will be hearing and reading about the state’s budget development and that concerns and fears will develop. It is important that you be informed, but also know that these are very early discussions and we feel confident that many of these preliminary reduction recommendations will be minimized as lawmakers continue their debate and understand the impacts.
The Senate Committee’s version, discussed yesterday, reflects an overall reduction target of $285 million spread among all public safety agencies within that committee. As you can imagine, this is virtually an impossible task without negatively impacting public safety services. Specifically, within the Department of Corrections, the Committee’s initial reductions total $155 million and eliminates 2,409 positions. Although a majority of those positions are vacant, this substantially limits our ability to operate in all areas of the department, including medical, community corrections, and institutions. Eliminating this number of positions will impact post charts and staffing levels, placing our officers, medical personnel, program and administrative personnel who work each day in Florida’s prisons at increased risk of harm and may jeopardize public safety.
While the House Criminal and Civil Justice budget reduction recommendations will not be developed until next week, the House public safety reduction target allocation is $141 million, substantially less than the Senate target. The committee listed potential issues for discussion purposes only. For Corrections, those issues include possible reductions to Community Corrections, Substance Abuse and Pre-Trial Intervention. Again, no reduction recommendations were made in the House Committee.
Over the next several days we will be meeting with legislative leadership, and every member on our committees to communicate the damaging impacts of these potential reductions. As we work with legislative leaders over the days and weeks ahead, I ask that you continue to stay focused and diligent in performing the outstanding and professional job you do each and every day, often going in harm’s way, to keep our communities safe. We will stand together because we never walk alone.