Senate Republicans Propose Zeroing Out Funding for Voter-Enacted Drug Treatment Program
SACRAMENTO, July 25 -- Senate Republicans today proposed ending state funding for drug treatment under Proposition 36--California's treatment-instead-of-incarceration law approved by 61% of voters in 2000--even though the program saves $2.50 for every $1 invested in it. Advocates criticize the Senate Republicans for attempting to override the will of the voters in back-room budget dealing.
Margaret Dooley, Prop. 36 Coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, said, "The proposal sadly illustrates that Senate Republicans' distaste for drug treatment outweighs their interest in fiscally responsible policies. In just six years, Prop. 36 has saved nearly $1.8 billion and graduated over 70,000 people--who are no longer clogging jails and prisons. De-funding this treatment alternative now would be the height of fiscal irresponsibility."
According to state-contracted research at UCLA, Prop. 36 saves $2.50 for every $1.00 invested. UCLA also found that the vast majority of these savings--93%--are generated at the state level. The GOP wants 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."
Ms. Dooley continued, "Prop. 36 is not only a voter mandate, it's a state program because the state gets most of the benefit."
The GOP proposal attempts token support for treatment by proposing a $60 million funding increase for "drug courts," another treatment diversion program.
Dave Fratello, a co-author of Prop. 36, countered, "Boosting funding for drug courts is a fig leaf on a GOP plan to end a popular, voter-approved treatment program. The reality is that drug courts cannot absorb that money so quickly. There are not enough trained drug court judges, and many counties do not even have drug courts set up."
Adding that the proposal threatens federal matching funds, Mr. Fratello continued, "They're talking about a net reduction of $85 million from the amount spent on treatment for drug offenders last year. If this is approved, federal matching grants would be cut by the same amount next year, and by half that amount the following year. So this shortsighted GOP plan to save $60 million will actually cost California over $120 million in federal funding in just two years, decimating treatment services statewide."