AZ must fix prison care, but in the looming budget shortfall, funding remains unclear
In an effort to meet a federal judge's orders to improve care for nearly 25,000 inmates in state-run prisons, Arizona’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee signed off on a spending boost.
But that move puts added pressure on a state budget that is already deep in the red.
In a ruling last year, a U.S. District judge called the state’s prison care “grossly inadequate'' and demanded change. This is the latest in a decade-old inmate health care lawsuit.
The proposed fixes add a $117 million cost in the coming budget year. But there is already a projected $400 million shortfall in the current budget and a worse projection for the next one.
Republican state Sen. John Kavanagh says lawmakers will have to trim expenses. There is a $1.5 billion rainy day fund available but Republican leaders don’t seem interested in tapping into it.