PHOENIX — An Arizona lawmaker wants to use money from an early childhood
development program to help fund the child welfare agency under fire after
revelations that it ignored more than 6,000 child abuse and neglect reports over
Republican state Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills is targeting the funds of
the Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Board, also known as First
Things First, the Arizona Capitol Times reported. The
program gets its revenue from a tobacco tax.
Kavanagh said he’s planning a ballot proposal to redirect a quarter of the
agency’s annual spending to Child Protective Services. That comes out to roughly
$45 million annually, he said.
It remains to be seen if the proposal would get any traction.
If it did, it won’t be the first time that lawmakers attempted to take money
from the early childhood board. The last time legislators tried to sweep funds
from the agency, they lost in court.
Voters also rejected lawmakers’ attempt to dismantle the program in 2010, when
the public rejected a ballot proposal targeting the Arizona Early Childhood
Development and Health Board.
The agency has since been working to bridge differences with lawmakers. Since
the loss at the ballot box in 2010, legislators have refrained from seeking to
either dismantle the childhood board or sweep its revenue.
Sam Leyvas, the interim executive director of First Things First, said his
group’s board will likely balk at attempts to redirect the agency’s revenue.
“At some point, you really just have to support the will of the voters,” he
said, referring to the agency’s creation of First Things First in 2006 and the
public’s affirmation of that decision in 2010.
Leyvas said the childhood board wasn’t created by voters to prevent abuse or
neglect, which he maintained is the core responsibility of the state. The goal
instead is to build a solid safety net system.
Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, http://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com