Tuesday, January 15, 2008
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last week announced dramatic plans to cut the 2008-09 state budget by 10% across the board, including California’s voter-approved, treatment-instead-of-incarceration program, Proposition 36. Although the proposed cut for the 2008-09 budget is significantly less than the previous year’s 17%, it would bring total funding for Prop. 36 down to just $108 million—its lowest level since voters approved the program in 2000.
“The drug treatment funding crisis is real,” notes Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, DPA’s Prop. 36 Statewide Coordinator. “After two years of declining operating budgets, there is no fat to trim, no frills to cut. Programs are already operating at bare bones levels, and further cuts can only mean one thing—less treatment for people who need it and would benefit from it.”
Since it was approved by 61% of voters in 2000, Prop. 36 has graduated 72,000 people, has saved the state over $1.3 billion and, according to researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), has not had any negative impact on crime trends.
Curtis Notsinneh, DPA’s Deputy Director California, Sacramento, points out, “When Californians overwhelmingly passed Prop. 36, they signaled a shift away from the ineffective punitive incarceration policies of the 1980s and 90s, and toward a more pragmatic, compassionate approach. Voters knew that addiction is treatable and they guessed that treatment would pay off—in people’s lives and in taxpayers’ pocketbooks. Six years of data prove they were right on the mark.”
Unlike many state programs, Prop. 36 actually saves money. According to UCLA researchers, taxpayers save $2.50 for every $1 invested in the program—and $4 for every $1 spent on a participant who completes the program. It’s a simple equation: the more the state spends on the program, the more taxpayers save, and the more people succeed in the program, the more taxpayers save.
Ms Dooley-Sammuli argues, “Especially in a year with such significant budget deficit, cutting funding to this proven cost-saving and life-improving program is foolish.”
Cutting Prop. 36 funding again threatens thousands of Californians’ access to drug treatment and an opportunity for a healthier life. What’s more, it ignores both the will of the voters and the evidence that treatment and rehabilitation benefit all of the state’s residents.
DPA will continue to work in California in 2008 on overcoming the impasse in Sacramento and on promoting the expansion of treatment in lieu of incarceration.
Drug Policy Alliance