LAO 2006-07 Budget Analysis: General Government

Analysis of the 2006-07 Budget Bill

Legislative Analyst's Office
February 2006

Local Government Financing (9210)

This budget item contains funding for three purposes:

Booking Fees

The Governor’s budget specifies that it will propose legislation to reform the booking fee program and create a $40 million continuous appropriation to offset fees that cities and special districts pay to counties when they book suspects into county jails. At the time this analysis was prepared, the Legislature did not have details regarding the administration’s proposal. This analysis provides background information regarding booking fee payments and outlines some issues for legislative consideration in reviewing the administration’s proposal.


Ever since the Legislature authorized counties to impose fees on public agencies that book their arrestees into county jails, these fees have been a source of friction between the state, counties, and cities. The Legislature’s original intent in creating this program in 1990-91 was to allow counties to recoup certain costs imposed on them by other local agencies (primarily cities), thereby offsetting state budgetary reductions associated with the 1990-91 Budget Act. The Legislature also intended for booking fees to provide a disincentive to local agencies booking low-level offenders into county jail, thus (1) reducing the pressure on overcrowded county detention facilities, (2) preserving county jail space for more serious offenders, and (3) giving cities an incentive to develop alternatives for nonviolent, less serious offenders.

Virtually every year beginning in 1999, the Legislature has considered proposals to offset the fiscal effect of the fees on local agencies or reduce county authority to impose fees. Most notably, Chapter 79, Statutes of 1999 (AB 1662, Leonard)-later amended by Chapter 1075, Statutes of 2000 (SB 225, Rainey), and Chapter 1076, Statutes of 2000 (AB 2219, Battin)-established a $38.2 million continuous appropriation to annually reimburse local agencies for booking fees paid in 1997. (That is, the state reimbursement amount did not vary to reflect changes in the booking fee rate or the number of people booked into county jail.)

In 2004, however, it appeared that city and county officials and the legislative leadership reached a resolution regarding this issue. Specifically, Chapter 227, Statutes of 2004 (SB 1102, Budget and Fiscal Review Committee): (1) eliminated state booking fee subventions after July 1, 2005, and (2) limited county booking fees charged to public agencies to no more than one-half of the actual costs. Thus, current law establishes a 50-50 sharing ratio between counties and public agencies regarding the cost of booking an arrestee into county jail. (Orange, Imperial, and Ventura Counties have chosen not to charge public agencies any booking fees and a number of other counties charge less than 50 percent of the cost.)

Governor’s Proposal

The Governor’s budget indicates an interest in “reforming” the booking fees program. Although the administration has not released its proposal, the budget indicates that the administration will propose legislation establishing a $40 million continuous appropriation to reimburse cities and special districts for booking fees paid to counties

While details regarding the administration’s proposal are not yet available, we recommend the Legislature consider these factors when reviewing the reform package:

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