SACRAMENTO, January 10 -- Today's budget proposal by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recommends a deep funding cut for California's landmark, voter-approved treatment-instead-of-jail program, Proposition 36. The Drug Policy Alliance sharply criticized the proposal, saying the governor's budget would undermine the success of the cost-effective program and shift more costs to already cash-strapped counties.
Margaret Dooley, Prop. 36 outreach coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, said, "We are, frankly, shocked by the deep cuts the governor wants to make to this popular and successful program. Prop. 36 has saved over $1 billion in five years, and it has kept more people out of prison than anything the governor has ever proposed. Still, he appears to be wasting no time starving this program to death."
If the governor's budget is approved, this would be the second year in a row that Prop. 36 drug treatment programs would have less money to operate than in the previous year. Last year, the Legislature approved $145 million in total for Prop. 36-related programs, but the governor now proposes only $120 million, to be divided between two separate Prop. 36 funds.
"By cutting funding for a second year," Dooley said, "the Governor is gutting one of the best public health programs ever to come out California."
Of the $120 million proposed by the governor, $60 million would be channeled through a one-year-old fund called the Substance Abuse Offender Treatment Program (OTP), which requires county funding matches before state money is distributed.
Dave Fratello, co-author of Prop. 36, said, "The governor proposes only threadbare funding for Prop. 36 treatment programs if counties don't put up money, too. This sets the stage for endless conflicts. Counties will challenge the requirement, and we could see lawsuits by drug offenders, too, if appropriate treatment turns out to be unavailable." According to a recent survey by the Coalition of Alcohol and Drug Associations, Prop. 36 needs at least $209.3 million to "
adequately address the treatment needs." The Governor's proposed funding for Prop. 36 falls almost $90 million short of that target, which would allow counties to better meet the range of needs in treatment, support services and criminal justice supervision for the over 36,000 clients enrolling in Prop. 36 programs each year. Nikos Leverenz, director of Drug Policy Alliance's Sacramento office, noted, "This budget is not even flat funding for Prop. 36, it's a major cut. The Governor is pushing us much further away from the funding level experts say is necessary to deliver appropriate treatment. This is a tragic case of ignoring the data, ignoring the need, ignoring the voters' will, and punishing a whole class of people mainly because Prop. 36 was not the governor's or the legislature's idea." About the Prop. 36 Budget Figures
For five years (FY 2001-02 through FY 2005-06), Prop. 36 was guaranteed funding of $120 million per year from the state general fund. Counties actually spent $143 million to implement Prop. 36 in FY 2005-06, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office, which was possible because some counties had carried forward money from earlier years with fewer clients.
Last year was the first in which legislators set the Prop. 36 program's budget. The legislature approved $120 million for the main Prop. 36 fund, and $25 million in supplementary funds under the auspices of the OTP program. Due to delays in distributing that money, only $132 million is expected to be available to counties in fiscal year 2006-07, a reduction of $11 million from the previous year.
A simple adjustment for inflation, using statistical methods employed by the Department of Finance, would call for a Prop. 36 budget of at least $152.4 million to match the dollar value of the program's first-year funding. By this measure, the governor's newest proposal is at least $32.4 million short of the amount first allocated for Prop. 36. Prop. 36 Generates Savings
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, every $1 invested leads to $4 in savings. In the program's first five years, taxpayer savings reached $1.3 billion, according to figures from the Justice Policy Institute. A recent UCLA analysis on Prop. 36 cost savings showed that the state enjoys 93% of the savings from Prop. 36, with counties receiving the remaining 7%. Prop. 36 Background
Prop. 36 was approved by 61 percent of voters in November 2000. A June 2004 poll by the Field Institute showed support for the law at 73 percent. Nearly 12,000 people have successfully completed substance treatment during each year of Prop. 36's existence, putting the program on track to graduate 72,000 Californians in its first six years. For more information and a copy of the referenced reports, visit these sites:
-- UCLA Prop. 36 savings report
-- LAO Report
-- UCLA report on county/state savings For more information on Prop. 36, visit www.prop36.org