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home : opinions : opinions September 15, 2014

4/2/2014 10:30:00 AM
Legislators' budget priorities messed up

The Arizona House late Thursday night adopted a $9.2 billion budget plan, and not without strife.

But even in a budget in the billions, no one single interest will get everything it wants. Tough calls must made in these financially prudent times.

Still, there's some head-scratching, as we examine what our elected officials have deemed - or not deemed - priorities.

To that end, the House budget - which heads to the Senate this week - kicks down the road the state's most grievous problem, which is the disastrous support for Child Protective Services.

We know the history. The beleaguered agency was shown to have 6,500 complaints of abuse and neglect that had done uninvestigated. Even Gov. Jan Brewer said this past January the system is broken.

The new agency Brewer created to attack this chronic neglect at the state level needs funding. And that's what drew division among House Republicans when approving the budget.

Some, including Senate President Andy Biggs (R-Gilbert), say the budget needs no provision for the Legislature to act on child-welfare funding when Brewer's new agency releases its long-awaited findings by May 1. We're told instead to sit tight and trust the Legislature. Trust that the budget for the governor's new division will be re-examined when her report is released. Then they'll see if they find it worthy for funding.

That the thousands of neglect and abuse victims should trust them. They'll get to it when they deem it necessary. But to include a provision in last week's approved budget to do just that isn't necessary, they assure us. Trust them.

Suddenly Brewer's pointed remarks about the effort to protect kids being "impeded by years of structural and operational failures" rings true. And she made that remark two months before the budget approval.

But, look at the bright side. What did make it into the budget was almost a million dollars ($900,000) of taxpayer money in extra funding for private prisons for operator GEO Group.

Trust them.

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