28 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2012
Date Written: January 11, 2012
Across the nation, state governments are mired in economic crisis. Over 40 states had billions in budget shortfalls last year. With this grave reality in mind, this report, Improving Budget Analysis of State Criminal Justice Reforms, details how a change to the way states perform cost evaluations of legislation could help alleviate the strain. It explains how enacting certain criminal justice reforms will significantly reduce states’ runaway spending on prisons. This problem can be somewhat alleviated if states have in place adequate procedures to accurately research and draft the “fiscal notes” legislatures require to accompany such proposals. These fiscal notes contain official state estimates of the costs and savings to state treasuries of proposed laws under consideration by the legislature. This report finds that the vast majority of states do not accurately perform these fiscal notes in a way that is useful to legislators. It recommends a series of best practices for states to provide accurate fiscal information to state legislators. By following these best practices, states can calculate both short- and long-term costs and cost savings for criminal justice bills and easily provide that information to legislators, who can then know the true fiscal implications of reform proposals before voting on them. States can use these best practices to reform their fiscal note process. Advocates and the public can also use these best practices to better understand the accuracy of fiscal notes currently produced by states and the reach of their usefulness.
Keywords: criminal justice, state budget, fiscal note, fiscal responsibility, mass incarceration, sentencing, prison population, fiscal analysis
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Leachman, Michael and Chettiar, Inimai M. and Geare, Benjamin, Improving Budget Analysis of State Criminal Justice Reforms: A Strategy for Better Outcomes and Saving Money (January 11, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1991413 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1991413