State Senate Veers Away from Child Welfare Commitment in Budget

Apr 1, 2014

The fate of a $9.2 billion state budget could depend on lawmakers crafting a commitment for future child-welfare funding that does not actually commit them to doing anything. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer explains.

State Senate Majority Leader John McComish

The spending plan already includes funding for 242 new caseworkers and support staff. That’s less than requested by Gov. Jan Brewer. And, Rep. Kate Brophy McGee said she’s confident that a report on how to create a new Department of Child Welfare and Family Services will conclude more is needed to properly protect children. But, unable to get cash for that included in the budget, she instead got the House to add language saying the Legislature will reexamine the needs when the report comes out and “provide resources to meet those needs.” But, Sen. Chester Crandell said that amounts to a blank check.

“In my opinion — and I may be wrong — if you put it in there, the way it was written it actually mandates we have to come back and fund it. And I’m not sure that’s good legislation,” Crandall said.

Senate Majority Leader John McComish said he and his colleagues are willing to provide Brophy McGee with some sort of commitment — as long as there’s no requirement for lawmakers to absolutely promise to come up with the dollars.

“I think we might see language that’s more ‘intent’ language as opposed to ‘absolute commitment’ language,” McComish said.

The new language will be debated later this morning.