January 22, 2011
The state of Arizona's legislative session began this month. Lawmakers and Gov. Brewer's top priority is Arizona's budget crisis. For the past few years, Az's general fun-which is the main coffer that provides annual budgetary funds for most agencies, departments, programs, etc, in AZ-has been consistently diminishing, while certain agencies, departments, etc budgetary needs have been growing, such as ADOC.
For the past few years, lawmakers and the governor have been making drastic and arguable reckless budget cuts, borrowing and financial manoeuvring to balance the budget and keep AZ afloat. Thus far, their actions have only been postponing the inevitable conclusion of this path. Insolvency.
Governor Brewer's budget proposal was released last week and unsurprisingly, it is chock full of the same cuts, borrowing and gimmicks as years past. One exception I noticed in her proposal was instead of a minimal cut to ADOC's budget, Governor Brewer proposed an increase to ADOC's already huge budget (ADOC's budget is currently the 3rd highest payout from the state's General Fund and soon to be the 2nd highest if cuts to Education and Health Care continue.)
So Gov. Brewer has proposed to cut more funds from Arizona's most vulnerable and vital areas, who have already taken the brunt of all prior cuts, in order to restore ADOC's prior minute cuts and increase their budget.
Some may argue that it is responsible for ADOC's budget to remain virtually untouched by cuts in the interest of "public safety". This is so far from the truth. Let me explain how.
"Public Safety" is a broad description, which is generally used to compartmentalize mainly law enforcement, ie DPS, ADOC, etc, and can include fire rescue and certain other agencies. "Public Safety" is what the governor and lawmakers assert they are going to be preserving by cutting FROM education and Healthcare and giving TO ADOC. However, what they fail to recognize-or is it they simply don't care?-is that cutting the budgets of AHCCCS and Medicaid is a far bigger threat to public safety, than cutting ADOC's budget.
Aside from the obvious fact that if Arizona's AHCCCS/Medicaid dependant citizens loose coverage and need it for life sustaining or saving care, they could DIE. They could suffer. Lawmakers cut funding for life saving transplants. PEOPLE HAVE DIED as a direct result of that irresponsible and callous cut. Lawmakers made cuts that have denied mental health care to severely mentally disturbed people. Severely mentally ill people have been known to harm themselves and others. Case in point: The mass shootings in Tucson.
"Public Safety"...It's painfully obvious that lawmakers and the Governor will be ignoring the public's safety in further cutting AHCCCS/Medicaid. And substance abuse counseling funding cuts... How is that not a threat to public safety?
Now, if Gov. Brewer and lawmakers want to make our state a "Prison State", which is what it seems to me, continue to build prisons, hire guards, and continue with the same old budget cuts, within a couple of years Arizona Dept. of Corrections budget will be the General Fund's highest recipient, instead of it's third highest, next to Education and Healthcare.
One viable solution to the problems with AZ's budget is to reform AZ's sentencing statutes and release some prisoners from ADOC early. Arizona's House Representative Cecil Ash, Republican/Mesa, has been and is pushing for sentencing reform in Arizona. Others in the community support it, too. Maybe it's time for other lawmakers to get on board.
14 hours ago