Arizona lawmakers approved a $9.2 billion budget yesterday.
The budget, which still needs Governor Jan Brewer's approval, shaved off roughly $25 million from Brewer's proposal for Child Protective Services spending for next year. Between the scandal of thousands of cases getting ignored at CPS, and the growing foster-care system, Brewer's made it clear that CPS is one of her top priorities this session.
However, there is a caveat to these lower levels of funding, as explained in one of the budget bills:
The legislature recognizes that legislation is being developed for a successor agency for child protective services that is separate from the department of economic security. Since that task is not complete, this budget has been adopted without knowing the scope, department needs and funding requirements for the successor agency that are necessary to protect the safety of the children in this state. It is the intent of the legislature to reexamine the budget in conjunction with the legislation that will create a successor agency, in order to meet the needs of that successor agency. The needs include staffing, automation, support services, placement, early intervention services and any needs deemed essential for the successor agency services and the safety of children in this state.
It's been reported that a special session may be called to deal with funding for the new department that includes CPS.
In the meantime, the budget passed by legislators does include more CPS funding than the Senate budget initially proposed.
Here are some of the differences between the budget as passed, and Brewer's proposal:
- Brewer proposed $25 million for the creation of the new agency that includes CPS, the budget includes $20 million.
- Brewer proposed $10 million in 2015, and $15 million for the two years after that to replace the outdated child-safety database, which has a rough estimated cost of $40 million. Lawmakers approved $5 million a year for the next three years.
- Brewer proposed more than $20 million for new CPS workers. Lawmakers approved $15.3 million.
- Brewer proposed $8.6 million for more workers in CPS' Office of Child Welfare Investigations (which deals with criminal cases). Lawmakers approved $1.8 milion.
- Lawmakers met Brewer's proposals for CPS attorneys, child-support services, and adoption services.
Again, it appears that these funding levels may increase soon. However, Democrats say the Republican-controlled Legislature should have immediately met the governor's proposals for CPS funding to deal with the crisis.
Brewer had to appoint a special team to process the thousands of cases CPS had been shelving over the past few years. While backlog of uninvestigated cases grew, CPS workers essentially hid how bad the problem really was, new CPS head Charles Flanagan has said. That backlog crew until someone inside CPS blew the whistle, and exposed the fact that thousands of allegations of child abuse and neglect were simply shelved, and not investigated to the slightest degree. As if that wasn't bad enough, while this is happening, there's also a foster-care crisis. Since 2007, 43 other states have been able to decrease the number of kids in out-of-home care, while Arizona's level has increased more than 40 percent -- much higher than any other states.
In their official statement protesting the budget, Democratic leaders, Senator Olivia Cajero Bedford and Representative Eric Meyer said the following:
"There is no justifiable reason to wait until the Legislature convenes a special session (to address the new Department of Child Safety and Family Services) to fund these staffing positions. The Govenor's Office provided sound recommendations for staffing and funding levels which are disregarded in this budget. Staffing shortages have, in part, contributed to a legacy of tragic mismanagement of our child welfare program and have put the safety of Arizona's children in jeopardy for far too long. The failure to provide full funding for child welfare staffing needs in this budget is harmful."
The Democrats also blasted education spending in the budget, calling both K-12 and higher education funding inadequate.
In a statement, Representative Meyer said, "All this budget does is protect the status quo."
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