When California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the 2007-08 state budget into law late last month, he preserved funding for Proposition 36 at $120 million, the level approved by the legislature. This was a relative victory, given that Schwarzenegger cut $703 million--including funding for many critical services--from the legislature's budget before signing.
The governor has the power to “blue pencil,” or reduce or eliminate, funding to any program before signing the budget into law. He does not have the power to increase funding.
Senate Republicans had asked the governor to use his blue pencil to eliminate all funding to Prop. 36. The fact that the program was not part of his cuts reflects the outpouring of support from advocates and legislators, including Senate President pro Tem Don Perata, during the contentious budget process.
Prop. 36 advocates, treatment providers and prison reform activists from San Diego to Long Beach to Sacramento wrote letters, sent faxes and made calls to their legislators and the governor, asking them to do the right thing. Thanks to all their dedication, the governor maintained funding to this important program.
The 2007-08 budget provides $100 million for the Prop. 36 trust fund, and $20 million for a separate Prop. 36 fund, called the Offender Treatment Program. The first fund is distributed to all 58 counties, depending on need (as determined by the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs). The second fund, however, requires that counties match funds at a ratio of 1:9. Counties unable, or unwilling, to match funds cannot access OTP funding.
Margaret Dooley, Prop. 36 coordinator for DPA, said, "The fact that Prop. 36 will receive $120 million this year is wonderful news, especially given that many other essential state programs that provide critical services were cut or eliminated. However, we had hoped for more."
Dooley noted that the program is already operating on a shoe string. She said, "Another $20 million in cuts will mean that more people end up on waiting lists rather than in treatment programs-—and, as a result, some people will fail simply because they are unable to access treatment quickly enough."
The Prop. 36 trust fund will receive $20 million less in 2007-08 than it did the previous year, and $40 million less than the legislature’s budget committees agreed earlier this year. Meanwhile, health care and housing costs continue to rise.
However, the level of funding Prop. 36 did receive is an accomplishment in the current budget climate. Thanks to the outpouring of support, 36,000 people convicted of low-level nonviolent drug offenses will continue to have access to drug treatment each year.
Drug Policy Alliance