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State Corrections Department: “Biggest Deadbeat”

An Associated Press analysis of state spending documents obtained under the California Public Records Act shows that the California Corrections Department is not only a perennial budget-buster — it´s also the state´s biggest deadbeat.

Last year the department paid nearly $3 million in penalties for overdue bills, more than half of the $4.9 million in such penalties paid by state government.

The California Prompt Payment Act requires state agencies to pay undisputed invoices within 45 days of receipt. Those failing to do so must pay a daily penalty on invoices submitted by small businesses until the bills are paid — and a slightly smaller penalty for other businesses.

Corrections officials attributed last year´s late payments to delays in Department of Finance approvals of the prison system´s requests for money to cover budget overruns. However, one high-ranking Corrections official tells The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the late payments are common.

So common in fact that many small companies selling goods and services to prisons know it may be months before they are paid. Those companies plan their own budgets accordingly.