Obstacles ahead for bills to merge prisons, parole board

     The consolidation has been a component of Governor Tom Wolf's last two budgets. (AP Photo)

    The consolidation has been a component of Governor Tom Wolf's last two budgets. (AP Photo)

    Legislation to combine the state Department of Corrections with the Board of Probations and Parole has begun moving through the Senate.

    The consolidation is part of Governor Tom Wolf’s plan to cut costs in his proposed budget in the face of a $3 billion structural deficit.

    It passed the Senate Appropriations Committee with only a few dissenting votes, but similar bills generally haven’t done well in the House.

    The merger has been included in Wolf’s last two budgets as a cost-cutting measure, and has gotten hung up over concerns it would give prison officials too much power over parole decisions.

    House GOP spokesman Stephen Miskin confirmed there are still concerns, though he says nothing’s off the table.

    “I know law enforcement has had issues with merging the two, and so has our judiciary committee,” he said. “I think we are trying to come up with language that would make it workable.”

    The consolidation is expected to save about $10 million next fiscal year and $18 million annually after that.

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