Budget cuts: Oregon proposes closing 3 prisons

PORTLAND — Oregon corrections officials proposed Wednesday closing three prisons, releasing nearly 1,000 inmates and cutting 232 jobs as part of the budget-cutting planned by Gov. Ted Kulongoski. The three are the Mill Creek work camp and the Santiam Correctional Institution in Salem, and the Powder River Correctional Facility in Baker City, according to budget documents released by the governor's office.

They are among the smaller prisons in Oregon's system of 14 correctional facilities. All are minimum-security facilities.

With revenue falling short of expectations, Kulongoski two weeks ago ordered agencies to come up with 9 percent across-the-board cuts. He said Wednesday he would announce a final cut list by the end of the month.

The governor has limited flexibility in trimming the budget. He's allowed only to order an "allotment," which means all agencies cut their budgets by the same percentage.

The Legislature, which could set priorities, is not in session, and there's a debate about whether it should call itself into the year's second special session.

Republicans have called for one, but Democratic leaders say the time isn't ripe. They're hoping the federal government will come up with significant aid to the states.

Democratic House Speaker Dave Hunt called the proposed cuts "just the starting point" and said lawmakers would have a plan "to mitigate the worst of the proposed cuts."

"The depth of these cuts is sobering," he said in a press release.

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