Gov. Bill Haslam said he expects to increase spending on the state’s Department of Correction next year in light of problems that probation and parole workers were monitoring dead ex-convicts.
The agency is also likely to see additional taxpayer money to account for more people serving time in county jails than the state had planned for, he said.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Corrections is in an area that you see the budget take a jump up,” Haslam told reporters after a wreath laying ceremony honoring President James K. Polk’s birthday outside the state Capitol building Friday.
This budget year, legislators threw an extra $80 million at the agency, including $40 million for increases in local jail payments. The agency’s total budget this year is $853 million out of the state’s nearly $31.5 million budget, according to state officials.
Haslam said he is asking each state agency to offer him budget plans as early as next week that include 5 percent cuts — reductions he said he doesn’t expect many agencies will have to make.
The governor said he wants to increase state dollars in higher education, add more money into the state’s rainy day fund, invest in some underfunded departments and weather increases in health care costs.
Probation, parole and correction officials became the focus of legislative ire last month after a state audit found the Board of Probation and Parole was monitoring more than 80 parolees and people on probation who had been dead for as long as 19 years. The audit also found that 80 percent of GPS-monitored offender alarms “appear unmonitored.”
Duties to monitor people on probation and parole are now under the Department of Corrections, although the chairman of the state’s probation and parole board told a legislative committee that it would “take Superman” to correct those and other problems before the state performs another audit next year.
Commissioner Derrick Schofield told lawmakers an abundance of paperwork, a growing number of offenders on parole and probation and now new workers to monitor them have contributed to the problems found in the audit. His assistant commissioner resigned a day later.
The governor will hear the agency’s budget proposal Thursday as part of a three-day string of budget hearings.
Tuesday, Haslam is expected to hear budget proposals from the departments of safety, tourist development, military, veterans affairs, agriculture, education, environment and conservation and health. The annual hearings will continue through Thursday and pick up again in mid-November. See the full budget hearing schedule here.