Margaret Dooley at (213) 291 4190 or Dave Fratello at (310) 394-2952
The California Assembly today reversed its agreement with the Senate to increase funding for community-based treatment for non-violent, low-level drug offenders, voting instead to cut current spending levels by $25 million. Advocates say the plan to cut funding to the life-saving and cost-effective program, in exchange for hefty tax breaks for large corporations, is a slap in the face of California voters. Prop. 36 proponents ask the Senate to reject the cut, pointing out it would actually cost taxpayers $62.5 million, and leave the program short by over $100 million.
Margaret Dooley, Prop. 36 Coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, said, “Cutting Prop. 36 does not save California money; it costs dearly. The program turns tax-spenders into taxpayers, by offering people the opportunity to break the cycle of addiction and incarceration. Given the Senate President’s opposition to the cuts, we ask the Senate to hold the Assembly to the $160 million funding level previously agreed upon.”
Prior to the vote, Senate President pro Tem 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 tax giveaways.”
Analyses conducted 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 2007-08.
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. For more information, visit www.Prop36.org and www.drugpolicy.org