Arizona AG ‘extremely disappointed’ with state budget cuts to opioid settlement funds

Jun 16, 2024, 12:43 PM | Updated: 1:02 pm

State's new budget a sore spot for attorney general - Here's why...

Kris Mayes released a statement on the new Arizona budget on Saturday night. (Arizona Attorney General's Office photo/via Facebook)

(Arizona Attorney General's Office photo/via Facebook)

PHOENIX — Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes is “extremely disappointed” with the state’s new budget, particularly the plan to reallocate opioid settlement funds to the Department of Corrections.

“This is an egregious grab,” Mayes said in a Saturday announcement. “I will do everything in my power to protect these opioid settlement funds for all Arizonans.”

These funds come from nationwide settlements of over $50 billion that pharmaceutical companies accused of perpetuating the opioid epidemic have agreed to pay.

Of that amount, $1.14 billion in settlement funds go to Arizona. Over 90 cities and towns — along with all of the state’s 15 counties — agreed on a plan to allocate those funds: the One Arizona Agreement.

“The state, counties, cities and towns reached this agreement to disburse funds based on population and severity of harm,” Mayes said.

The agreement is now in danger due to the Arizona Legislature’s actions, Mayes said.

AG says state’s new budget would misuse opioid settlement funds

Mayes said she repeatedly warned Hobbs and GOP leaders that using opioid settlement funds to backfill budget deficits is unlawful.

“I am extremely disappointed our Democratic governor, along with GOP leadership at our State Legislature, would put our $1.14 billion, 18-year opioid One Arizona Agreement at risk by attempting to sweep opioid funds to backfill budget deficits caused by GOP policies,” Mayes said.

That’s illegal — and Mayes is more than willing to fight it in court, she said during an interview last week with 12 News. She even said she would be willing to sue Gov. Hobbs over the issue.

Mayes acknowledged these public comments in her Saturday announcement. She added that she refuses to release the funds in a way that would violate the settlement agreement.

“I have stated publicly and very clearly that I refuse to release these funds in this way as it would violate the agreement, and I stand by those words today,” Mayes said.

Purpose of opioid settlement funds in Arizona

Mayes said she is the legal and fiduciary steward responsible for these funds.

“It is my duty to ensure they are legally spent, that the process is transparent and that these funds are spent according to the agreement,” Mayes said.

These funds are supposed to provide treatment, detox centers, educational programs and more.

“I look forward to the day when we can put politics and power plays aside to better protect public health, get these funds out into the communities who so desperately need them and save Arizona lives,” Mayes said. “Until then, I will continue to do what I was elected to do – be the lawyer for the people of our great state and protect these opioid settlement funds that too many people lost their lives for.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Arizona AG ‘extremely disappointed’ with state budget cuts to opioid settlement funds