SAN FRANCISCO — California Gov. Jerry Brown has scrapped a contentious $356 million bond-funded plan to build a new death row wing at the San Quentin prison.
The new arm of the prison in Marin County would have been financed by lease-revenue bonds: $220 million authorized in the fiscal 2004 budget and another $136 million included in the fiscal 2009 budget.
The extra request for bond funding mirrored the projected 61% rise in costs for the planned facility.
Brown said in a statement Thursday that the 1,152-inmate wing would have cost the state $28.5 million annually in debt service paid through the general fund.
“It would be unconscionable to earmark $356 million for a new and improved death row while making severe cuts to education and programs that serve the most vulnerable among us,” Brown said in the release.
The state never sold any of the bonds but the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation borrowed $19 million for initial planning and design of the new arm against the potential bond funds.
Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for the state treasurer’s office, said the CDCR is working on a plan to pay back the loan.
The high cost of the new construction at the 157-year-old prison and questions about inmate population caused the state Legislative Analyst’s Office to come out against the extra outlay in the fiscal 2009 budget.
In 2009, Treasurer Bill Lockyer slashed the size of a bond sale that would have included the San Quentin debt because of the legal questions surrounding the plan.
During Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration, the proposal ran into a opposition from politicians in the area of the prison, including legal challenges to the governor’s effort to fund the new facility.
Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, opposed the new wing for years because of cost and inmate population concerns. “Given the severity of our budget crisis, it makes no sense to spend millions of general fund dollars every year on this wasteful plan,” Leno said in a statement Thursday.
Leno said the new prison facility would have cost the state $1.6 billion over the next decade. The push to build the new prison wing started in 2003 when Gray Davis was governor.