Stalls, Leaving Prop 36 Funding in
At the end of July,
the California Senate failed to
pass a state budget approved by
the Assembly two weeks before. Unable
to reach agreement, the Senate followed
the Assembly on vacation and is
not expected to vote on the budget
until the legislative session resumes
on August 20. Until the legislature
passes and the governor signs a
budget in the fall, it is up to
the counties to provide funding—putting
a severe, short-term strain on all
providers who depend on county contracts
to provide Prop. 36 treatment.
The state budget
stalled in the Senate in late July,
after the Assembly passed a budget
that would cut funding to Prop.
36 by $25 million in 2007-08—and
grant hefty tax breaks for large
corporations. The cut was a surprise
to many, because the conference
committee (a committee made up of
legislators from both houses, which
settles discrepancies between their
two versions of the budget) had
previously agreed to actually increase
funding for Prop. 36 treatment to
$160 million in the new budget year.
Don Perata encouraged the Assembly
Speaker not to cut the program,
writing “I am alarmed and
dismayed by rumors that you are
considering a half a billion dollars
in tax breaks for special interests….
Even the increases we proposed to
the state’s Prop 36 program
- aimed at keeping non-violent drug
offenders out of prison and putting
them into treatment programs - has
fallen victim to concerns about
the state’s long-term deficit….
We cannot continue to fund education,
higher education and crucial human
services issues…by providing
The tension over
Prop. 36 hit a peak in late July
when the Senate Republicans proposed
balancing the state budget, in part,
by ending state funding for drug
treatment under Prop. 36. The Senate
Republicans wanted to shift the
fiscal burden to counties, writing
in their proposal, “To the
extent counties believe this is
a worthwhile effort, they can pay
out that cutting funding to Prop.
36 would actually cost taxpayers
money (since the program is a cost-saver;
and is required to receive federal
funding for treatment), could generate
lawsuits (since Prop. 36 is a state-mandated
program) and would undermine the
will of the voters (since 61% of
them approved treatment instead
of incarceration at the ballot box
in 2000). The Senate rejected the
Republicans proposal in late July,
but failed to pass an alternative
by researchers at the University
of California at Los Angeles show
that for every $1 invested in Prop.
36, the state saves $2.50. For program
completers, savings increases to
$4 per $1 spent. UCLA research has
also found that Prop. 36 needs a
minimum of $228.6 million in funding
to provide adequate services—over
$100 million more than the Assembly
has approved for the program in
According to federal
matching requirements, a net reduction
of $85 million from the amount the
state spent on treatment for drug
offenders would lead to decreased
federal matching grants of the same
amount next year, and half that
amount again the following year.
So the Senate Republican proposal
to cut $60 million would actually
cost California over $120 million
in federal funding in just two years,
decimating treatment services statewide.
In 2000, 61 percent
of California voters approved Prop.
36, permanently changing state law
so that all eligible non-violent
drug possession offenders must be
given the option of state-licensed
treatment. In six years, over 70,000
Californians have graduated Prop.
36 treatment and taxpayers have
saved between $200 million and $300
million per year.
When the budget
discussions resume in the Senate,
expected in late August, legislators
will again consider Prop. 36 funding.
a study released in April, researchers
from the University of California
at Los Angeles showed that Prop.
36 needs a minimum level of funding
of $228.6 million to provide adequate
treatment to generate greater cost
savings. More funding translates
into more treatment options, longer
treatment durations and, if the
money is spent in the right way,
higher rates of success.