Press Releases

Former State Finance Director Says Prop 34’s Cost Savings Claims “Flawed & Incorrect”

Abolishing Death Penalty Doesn’t Guarantee Savings

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Former California Department of Finance Director Mike Genest released the following statement today, questioning the arguments about cost savings in Proposition 34. Genest is an expert on state government, especially fiscal matters, having served for 30 years in various fiscal and budget-related jobs, including serving as the Director of Finance for the State of California from 2005-2009. The quotes below are a condensed version of the four page memo released today; a complete version is available online at

“The LAO’s official ballot pamphlet analysis pegs the net savings to state and local governments combined at $100 million annually, growing eventually to $130 million. While I think that the LAO made a good faith effort to guess at what the fiscal effects would be, their estimate is based on a few key assumptions about which they acknowledge there is substantial uncertainty and which may well be wrong.

“One of the largest savings anticipated by the LAO is due to eliminating the cost of death penalty trials. District Attorneys I’ve spoken with directly say that their costs when seeking the death penalty are only marginally higher than when seeking life without parole. The actual costs of a trial are a function of the complexity of the case, not the types of sentence being sought. Based on these discussions, I believe that the study relied upon by the LAO overstates the savings that could be achieved in the costs of murder trials.

“Moreover, the absence of the threat of a death penalty could substantially increase the total number of murder trials by taking away a major incentive for murderers to plead guilty. The best estimate available, based on a study by a California organization, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, is that elimination of the death penalty would reduce plea bargains and increase trials in murder cases by 11%. That would mean trials and appeals in over 140 additional murder cases a year, an added expense that could completely eliminate the savings from trying a much smaller number of cases as life-imprisonment rather than capital cases.

“The LAO savings estimate also assumes that if the death penalty is not eliminated, the state will only execute one or two prisoners per year. This assumption is completely unfounded. There are already 14 cases that have completed the normal appeals, more than the total executed by California to date, being held up by the litigation over the three-drug execution method.

Conclusion - Prop 34 Is a Gamble Not Worth Taking

Ultimately, the arguments for, or against capital punishment are not about costs and savings, but public safety. Proposition 34 holds only a hope, not a promise of saving money and then not in amounts that are even close to what would be needed to fix our schools or our budget. It is even possible that 34 will increase costs, in addition to endangering the public. It is not worth the gamble.

No on Proposition 34 Campaign
Kevin Riggs or Peter DeMarco, 916-448-5802

Source: No on Proposition 34 Campaign