In another attempt to cut prison spending, Schwarzenegger is floating the idea of outsourcing the incarceration of illegal immigrants who've been convicted of crimes in California. He thinks the answer is across the border.
"We pay them to build a prison down in Mexico and then we have those undocumented immigrants be down there in a prison and with prison guards and all this. It will halve the costs," he said.
He noted California could save $1 billion a year that could go towards public colleges and universities instead.
His comments are drawing sharp criticism. Latinos especially find them insensitive.
"He should stop offending everyone in his wake," Assm. Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, said. "I don't think the governor gets serious about our prisons. He had five years to do so. But throwing the problem to Mexico will not solve it."
As of the end of last year, California prisons had more than 22,000 inmates who may be here illegally; 15,000 of those identified themselves from Mexico.
"To trust another government, to not only incarcerate, but to rehabilitate individuals who've committed crimes in California is craziness," Lance Corcoran from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association said. "They have friends and relatives here. The chances are they're coming back to California."
Schwarzenegger's idea hasn't been vetted, so it's unclear whether it's even legal.
"We don't have any proposal put together, nothing set in stone. But any creative solution to spending less on prisons, the governor thinks we ought to talk about that," Schwarzenegger's Press Secretary Aaron McLear said.
The Legislative Analyst office says nearly 10 percent of the state budget goes to prisons, while less than 6 percent goes to higher education. It's spending Schwarzenegger wants to reverse through a constitutional amendment.