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In my view, the governor does have some tough choices. So here is my proposal for the new governor who has barely had a chance to get his feet wet on the problem. The very first the governor should do is to use that bully pulpit to take control of all expenditures and justifications for such spending. He has already prioritized his list so give him credit for doing so. First, do an assessment of the former administration as follows:
The organization of the Child Safety agency has to be structured to ensure a delivery of performance standards as well as safety for our high risk kids to be protected, safe and removed as needed. Take funding from DES that should be allocated to Child Safety programs. I think an increase of funding is appropriate and justified by the role they play in our public safety for kids today.
Re-negotiate all contractual services related to the state’s dependence on the private sector’s role to hybrid governance as a joint venture. One can change the terms or length of the contract to off-set any losses and this buys the Governor time to establish his next budget plan. This includes contracts on IT computer services and servers, communications, transportation, parks, highways, inmate hospital care and fees for services rendered and many other agencies who use private contractors to subsidize their work or needs to provide public service. Establish user fees (parks, museums, airports, state property and buildings) that return funds to the general fund and allow state treasurer access to these funds for future expenditure or end of year needs. Not a tax hike but a renewal source of funding within limits.
Realize where you can reduce agreed terms down 3% and get rid of some of the exclusiveness rules that causes us to pay for services not rendered e.g. 90 % prison bed payment as a mandatory condition even when bed count is lower. This is one huge drain that is being abused. Under Gov. Brewer, the prisons have become huge burdens to taxpayers. Their strategy has not been cost-effective and lacks long term planning.
Get rid of the pork in all state agencies and draw in the use of state vehicles as take home or limit their use for designated official use only. Regulate the use of fuel and other resources that cost taxpayers excessive utility bills etc. Expand your Go Green concept statewide. Take an assessment of all department heads, their deputy directors and upper echelon staff (grade 22 and above) and take a 3% pay cut on their salaries and benefits. Get this done in the first year.
Focus on K – 12 classroom needs and keep you promise to make education your primary goal and do it first. Many will appreciate your efforts regardless whether it’s a compromise between public and charter, the kids win.
The prison costs have been inflated because of serious and deliberate mismanagement of the prisons, not population or crime but overspending by the DOC. Hire a nonpartisan, non-political analyst and do some of the things other states are doing to reduce the state’s incarceration costs safely. Work with county prosecutors and identify community corrections and other alternative supervision methods for non-violent first offenders (no sex offenders) as well as implementing jail diversion programs to reduce the prison intake numbers and associated costs.
Focus on the “cost intensive populations” such as the elderly, mentally ill, DUI etc. It can be done and should be a priority to complete before your second year is finished. Terminate accessory contracts e.g. cable TV for prisoners and replace with existing CCTV systems using public television as entertainment and vocational channels for education.
You can save so much in cutting prison costs. Costs that have been embellished with home grown special projects (added max custody beds we don’t need) that makes it a money pit to all taxpayers. Begin an external driven NIC or American Corrections Association accreditation process of all medium to max custody prisons should be implemented immediately. This will give Arizona credibility in our court system and result in less litigation, less assaults on staff and inmates, less deaths and better public safety for the dollar spent.
Higher education is critical for our future. Cutting post-secondary education impacts the quality of life and potential future labor sources for our state. Reconsider your 75 million cut and find it somewhere else even if it is a percentage of the total suggested. I suspect between the 3 % savings on contractual services and 3 % pay cut of division directors and deputy directors, you will recover your 75 million and place it somewhere else without raising tuition costs for our kids.
Fifth, accept healthcare AHCCS and Medicaid and keep it the way it was designed by Gov. Brewer. It was good for those persons who cannot afford health care. Let the Feds subsidize the healthcare costs but here is the secret – diminish your healthcare on your prisoners.
Medicaid does not kick in unless the inmate goes under medical treatment for more than 24 hours and this is abused by our medical contractors. Instead of sending inmates to four or five regional hospitals localize their placement inside the prisons through a long term healthcare unit as well as a mental health treatment center as this can be done. Changing inmate patients from hospital care to in-patient prison care saves millions and can be done safely with existing building through minor remodeling and construction.