Arizona Senate budget plan differs with Brewer over child-welfare funds

2014-03-17T18:27:00Z 2014-03-17T19:51:06Z Arizona Senate budget plan differs with Brewer over child-welfare fundsBy Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star

PHOENIX — Senate Republicans proposed a $9.2 billion spending plan for the state, notably with less money for child welfare than sought by Gov. Jan Brewer.

Senate President Andy Biggs said he’s not necessarily disputing the governor’s contention that she needs $74 million this coming year to fund the new Division of Child Safety and Family Services. That’s what’s left of the old Child Protective Services after her executive order creating the new agency.

Brewer wants to have that made a Cabinet-level department.

But Biggs said he thinks the governor’s plan is based more on estimates than a real computation of what it would cost. So he wants the GOP-controlled Legislature to give her what she initially needs, with a commitment to add more money next year if needed.

Brewer spokesman Andrew Wilder said the plan is a nonstarter with his boss. “Governor Brewer does not support this proposal,” he said. “It is far off from what the governor will accept.”

Some of the changes, particularly in the child-welfare budget, are significant.

For example, Brewer’s proposal includes $25 million in a special “transition fund” to create the new agency.

Biggs said he sees that as a “place-holder” figure based on nothing in particular. So the Senate Republican plan instead plugs in $5 million.

Biggs said, though, that telling the governor “no” now on her full request does not mean lawmakers are shutting the door. He said legislators have been responsive when needs have exceeded funding. In January, lawmakers approved an extra $6.8 million boost for the new child-welfare agency.

But Biggs said there are no plans to simply give Brewer and her agency a blank check.

Overall, the Senate GOP budget is about $170 million less than what Brewer sought in January.

The Senate GOP budget also does not include $50 million Brewer wants to put into the state’s “rainy-day fund.”

“The money isn’t there,” Biggs said. He said there already is $450 million in the bank, enough to deal with immediate emergencies.

But there are spots in the Senate spending plan that are more generous than what Brewer proposed.

Debate on the plan begins today in the Senate Appropriations Committee, with a vote by the full Senate on Thursday.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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