A new bill signed by the governor in April of this year will require parolees and those on community supervision to pay for any required drug testing fees as a condition of their release. The law went into effect last week, although the precise amount of the payments and the effective date of the implementation of the act have yet to be determined.

The goal of the law, proponents state, is a saving to the state of about $500,000 per year. Those who oppose the measure point to the fact that most of those released from prison have little or no money, and are already overwhelmed with the costs of fines and restitution.

A couple of aspects of this new law caught our attention. The first is that, according to the report we read, in 2011 there were 230,000 tests drug tests performed that would be subject to the statute. The cost per test in Maricopa County is $7.80. The numbers don’t add up, unless either (a) only about one in three of those released will be required to pay up, or (b) the cost to the individual will only amount to about a third of the total. Or maybe the numbers we’ve seen are simply incorrect. However it turns out, we understand that Arizona is in the midst of a budget crunch.

On the subject of Arizona’s budget and the budgets of our counties and municipalities, we took a look at some of the spending and related items in our state over the past year or so that affect the amount of money available to be spent. Some are budget items; others are simply hard to explain. Here’s what we found:

  • Santa Cruz’s tracking system apparently went awry, and it “misplaced” almost a quarter million dollars in equipment;
  • The City of Safford spent $15,000 for the installation of outdoor stereo speakers on a downtown street;
  • Avondale spend $7 million for water and sewer connections to an auto racing park;
  • The Creighton elementary school district in Phoenix can’t account for 8,700 gallons of diesel fuel;
  • Tucson spends a million dollars a year to support the Reid Zoo, money that some say could be obtained from private sources.

But perhaps the most conspicuous example of waste, not in numbers but certainly in pure nerve, was Joe Arpaio’s crusade to determine the “truth” behind President Obama’s birth certificate. The investigation, which lasted months, involved sending investigators to Hawaii, and cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars, was begun because . . . Well, we just don’t know – there’s an outside chance it had something to do with politics, and maybe someone can make sense of a county sheriff investigating the Hawaii birth records of the President of the United States. We do know that this exercise was begun after the birth question was a dead issue. It came from nowhere and ended up where it started.

In any event, this sort of wasteful governmental spending does tend to weigh against adding to the burden of those least able to afford it. We’ll be interested to see how the drug testing cost allocation system works when it gets off the ground.

Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(480) 280-8028

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