SAN QUENTIN, CA - MAY 15: A view of the California State Prison at San Quentin May 15, 2009 in San Quentin, California. In an effort to raise cash to help California's financial woes, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing to sell some well known State properties. The Los Angeles Coliseum, San Quentin State Prison, The Cow Palace and the Orange County fairgrounds are some of the properties that the governor has named. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Gov. Jerry Brown has cancelled plans to build a new death row at San Quentin. Look for political opponents to use this news to try to remind voters of Brown's opposition to the death penalty during his first go-round as governor.
But don't expect those opponents to get very far. The budget is the issue today, and this move saves the state some $356 million. That's not much when the state faces a budget hole now estimated at $15 billion or so (after the enactment of billions of cuts earlier this spring). But it's not nothing.
The cancellation of plans also shows one of the benefits of Gov. Brown's much-criticized new contract with the state prison guards union. The union indicated that it wouldn't oppose this move -- a demonstration that Brown may be getting budget savings for having given the guards a generous contract.
Brown's decision also represents victory for a years-long effort by death penalty opponents to cancel the new Death Row. Between this decision, the procedural delays in death penalty cases and the difficulty in obtaining drugs for executions, California has a death penalty mostly in name only.