Home>Budget>Mayes Oppose State’s Proposed Opioid Settlement Use

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes speaking with attendees at the 2023 Legislative Forecast Luncheon hosted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry at Chase Field in Phoenix, January 6, 2023. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Mayes Oppose State’s Proposed Opioid Settlement Use

Threatens lawsuit over budget line item

By Steve Kirwan, June 19, 2024 5:00 am

AG Kris Mayes is threatening to sue the Arizona legislature over an item in the newly passed 2024 budget authorizing the use of Federal opioid settlement funds to “backfill” prior-year deficits. At issue is the interpretation of the settlement’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which prioritizes approximately 30% of the funds for, among various purposes, “Department of Corrections and related prison and jail opioid uses.”

The budget includes an item on Page 21 stating that the funds from the opioid settlement will “offset past and current department costs” for substance abuse-related “care, treatment, programs, and other expenditures.” Mayes’ office believes this use may be illegal.

The AG’s office proclaimed, “That MOU notwithstanding, the amount of money that is apparently being swept this year, and over the next few years ($195 million) to send just to DOC exceeds 30% of the state share just to send to DOC. Additionally, a JLBC analyst said yesterday in caucus hearings that $75 million is going to be used to backfill the DOC budget hole in the current fiscal year.”

The statement continued, “The Attorney General does not dispute there is a need for opioid funding in prisons and had proposed around $10 million for those uses in the budget. But it’s the amount being proposed and the admission that these funds are being used to backfill budget deficits that is at issue here.”

As expected, Mayes’ threat elicited a quick response from the legislature. The Center Square reported that House Speaker Ben Toma(R-27) responded to the AG’s criticism in a statement to the outlet.

“The AG has an unfortunate habit of threatening legal action against other elected officials without doing her homework,” Toma said. “She threatened to sue the legislature last year over the budget and opioid funding, but that lawsuit never materialized. I encourage the AG to try engaging in a productive dialogue with the Legislature and the Governor to communicate her policy disagreements.”

Now that the budget has passed with the line item intact, only time will tell if Mayes will act on her threat.

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