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Lawmakers May Not Pay For Criminal Code Overhaul This Year

The Senate’s fiscal leader says the ultimate solution on how to pay for the state's criminal code overhaul may still be at least a year away.

The move is intended to shift low-level, first time offenders away from state prison into local community corrections programs that focus more on rehabilitation.

A legislative panel earlier this year contracted with an independent research firm to find out how much money local programs will need to respond to the shift. It estimated the overhaul would cost $10.5 million a year.

Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, says that’s a very manageable number.

“When you look at the hundreds of millions of dollars that come and go around here, if we can’t find $10.5 million, in some cases, that’s a rounding error for some people around here," he says. "So I think that we should be able, out of the billions we spend, to find that money and get it programmed down there, to get the pump primed, to get things moving.”

But State Budget Committee Chair Luke Kenley says he’s also seen a report that predicts the criminal code overhaul will actually increase the prison population and could force the state to build a new prison.

“There’s a disconnect in that statement as well.  Either we have more people going to prison,which means we shouldn’t have as many people locally, or vice versa and we’re getting both answers at the same time," he says.

Kenley says the funding implications of the criminal code overhaul will likely not be solved during the 2014 session and will be part of the larger budget discussion in 2015.

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