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August 8, 2007
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State Budget Stalls, Leaving Prop 36 Funding in Limbo

At the end of July, the California Senate failed to pass a state budget approved by the Assembly two weeks before. Unable to reach agreement, the Senate followed the Assembly on vacation and is not expected to vote on the budget until the legislative session resumes on August 20. Until the legislature passes and the governor signs a budget in the fall, it is up to the counties to provide funding—putting a severe, short-term strain on all providers who depend on county contracts to provide Prop. 36 treatment.

The state budget stalled in the Senate in late July, after the Assembly passed a budget that would cut funding to Prop. 36 by $25 million in 2007-08—and grant hefty tax breaks for large corporations. The cut was a surprise to many, because the conference committee (a committee made up of legislators from both houses, which settles discrepancies between their two versions of the budget) had previously agreed to actually increase funding for Prop. 36 treatment to $160 million in the new budget year.

Senate President Don Perata encouraged the Assembly Speaker not to cut the program, writing “I am alarmed and dismayed by rumors that you are considering a half a billion dollars in tax breaks for special interests…. Even the increases we proposed to the state’s Prop 36 program - aimed at keeping non-violent drug offenders out of prison and putting them into treatment programs - has fallen victim to concerns about the state’s long-term deficit…. We cannot continue to fund education, higher education and crucial human services issues…by providing tax giveaways.”

The tension over Prop. 36 hit a peak in late July when the Senate Republicans proposed balancing the state budget, in part, by ending state funding for drug treatment under Prop. 36. The Senate Republicans wanted to shift the fiscal burden to counties, writing in their proposal, “To the extent counties believe this is a worthwhile effort, they can pay for it.”

Advocates point out that cutting funding to Prop. 36 would actually cost taxpayers money (since the program is a cost-saver; and is required to receive federal funding for treatment), could generate lawsuits (since Prop. 36 is a state-mandated program) and would undermine the will of the voters (since 61% of them approved treatment instead of incarceration at the ballot box in 2000). The Senate rejected the Republicans proposal in late July, but failed to pass an alternative budget.

Analyses conducted by researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles show that for every $1 invested in Prop. 36, the state saves $2.50. For program completers, savings increases to $4 per $1 spent. UCLA research has also found that Prop. 36 needs a minimum of $228.6 million in funding to provide adequate services—over $100 million more than the Assembly has approved for the program in 2007-08.

According to federal matching requirements, a net reduction of $85 million from the amount the state spent on treatment for drug offenders would lead to decreased federal matching grants of the same amount next year, and half that amount again the following year. So the Senate Republican proposal to cut $60 million would actually cost California over $120 million in federal funding in just two years, decimating treatment services statewide.

In 2000, 61 percent of California voters approved Prop. 36, permanently changing state law so that all eligible non-violent drug possession offenders must be given the option of state-licensed treatment. In six years, over 70,000 Californians have graduated Prop. 36 treatment and taxpayers have saved between $200 million and $300 million per year.

When the budget discussions resume in the Senate, expected in late August, legislators will again consider Prop. 36 funding.

In a study released in April, researchers from the University of California at Los Angeles showed that Prop. 36 needs a minimum level of funding of $228.6 million to provide adequate treatment to generate greater cost savings. More funding translates into more treatment options, longer treatment durations and, if the money is spent in the right way, higher rates of success.

 

 


 
Common Sense for Drug Policy
 
California Society of Addiction Medicine
 
California State Association of Counties
 

Read commentary from Oliver H., a Prop 36 graduate.

 
Get the Facts
Over a dozen Proposition 36 fact sheets are available for download. Topics include: the Effectiveness of Drug Treatment, Drug Courts/Deferred Entry, and the California Correctional System.
 
County-by-County
breakdowns of the 2000 initiative votes
 
For background on the Prop. 36 campaign and other votes nationwide for drug policy reform, see:

Contact Lists
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Parole Region Contact
Probation Contacts

 

     

 
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Drug Policy Alliance · (916) 444-3751 · sacto@drugpolicy.org