Jerry Brown is preparing to dance with the ones who brung him, specifically 31,000 members of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.
Jilted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the union cozied up to Brown by spending $1.4 million to help elect him. It was part of an effort to regain some of the dominance it once had in the Capitol and win a labor contract, after having operated without one since 2006.
Brown has responded, giving union leaders VIP treatment at his invitation-only election night party in Oakland and flying to Las Vegas earlier this month to address the union's convention.
In a speech that was closed to the public, Brown warned union members that there may not be much if any pay raise. But he also talked about his strong relationship with the union's leaders and declared that he intends to work out a labor pact with them once in office.
"He reached out to a large segment of his employees and gave them hope," said Chuck Alexander, the union's second in command. "It made people feel a little bit better."
To the broader public, Brown promises to focus on California's dire financial situation. Although he has made no pronouncement of note about prisons, Brown won't be able to solve the budget crisis without confronting the money pit that is the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. That will mean wrestling with the union.
California was spending $6 billion on prisons when Schwarzenegger took office in 2003, $28,000 per inmate per year. This year, the state will spend $9.3 billion on corrections, $49,500 per inmate.
Several prison issues await the past and future governor, and they all come at a cost.
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