Arizona Legislature Approves $6.8 Million for New CPS Workers, and Tab May Grow

Arizona's House and Senate both approved a proposal to spend more than $6.8 million to hire new employees at Child Protective Services, which includes $5.7 million in new spending from the state's general fund.

In addition to that, one legislator proposed dipping into the general fund for a little bigger special fund for CPS.

See also:
-Arizona Senate Committee Approves $6.8 Million to Hire New CPS Workers

Greg McKay, the Phoenix homicide detective who's been running CPS' relatively new Office of Child Welfare Investigations (OCWI) -- the office credited with discovering the thousands of uninvestigated cases at CPS -- explained to a House committee yesterday his office's need for more funding.

Turns out, that office already faces a backlog of cases too. It's only able to investigate about 17 percent of the child-safety reports at CPS that include allegations of criminal conduct. According to state law, such investigations are one of the main duties of OCWI.

McKay's seeking an extra $8.6 million in next year's budget to hire 93 more workers, which is included in Governor Jan Brewer's budget recommendation.

After listening to McKay's presentation, Republican Representative Carl Seel proposed a floor amendment to the special CPS funding, to give OCWI some money out of the general fund now to start hiring those people. Seel withdrew his amendment, saying he was just floating the idea that legislators may want to do this, adding that he didn't know exactly how much they should provide in this supplemental appropriation.

Meanwhile, the legislators approved, and Brewer undoubtedly will sign, the supplemental appropriation taking more than $5.7 million from the general fund, and shifting another $1.1 million from the Department of Economic Security budget to hire 192 "full-time equivalent child safety and family services positions."

This is on top of $69 million in new spending appropriated to CPS for this fiscal year. Last year's budget included $12.9 million for 150 new employees, plus legislators approved another supplemental appropriation last year -- another $4.4 million from the general fund for another 50 caseworkers.

Brewer's budget proposal also calls for even more funding at CPS, including about $10 million more in supplemental funds for CPS and the rest of the new Division of Child Safety and Family Services (CSFS), plus more than $73 million in new spending for next year (see slides 13-24 of Brewer's budget presentation).

Although legislators might not include all the spending Brewer wants on CPS and CSFS, nobody in either chamber of the Legislature voted against this new $5.7 million in spending, despite a few complaints from legislators on both sides of the aisle.

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.

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