LITTLE ROCK — A disagreement Wednesday over drug court funding and adding programs caused lawmakers to postpone action on the state Department of Community Correction's budget.
LITTLE ROCK — A disagreement Wednesday over drug court funding and adding programs caused lawmakers to postpone action on the state Department of Community Correction’s budget.
The Joint Budget Committee rejected a motion to recommend the agency’s proposed $69.9 million budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal session be drafted into bill form for the fiscal session that begins Feb. 13.
Rep. Kathy Webb, D-Little Rock, co-chairman of the committee, said after the meeting that members apparently had “buyer’s remorse” after approving one of two amendments to the budget dealing with drug courts.
The committee first approved a motion by Sen. Bill Pritchard, R-Elkins, to transfer $3 million from the Tobacco Settlement Commission to fund 41 existing drug courts across the state.
The Legislature last year approved a bill appropriating $1.5 million from the DCC for the treatment programs. The money, however, was not funded through the Revenue Stabilization Act because the Legislature also approved about $30 million in tax cuts.
DCC shifted some funds around and provided $500,000 for the treatment programs at the beginning of the current fiscal year, Pritchard told the committee Wednesday. Another $392,000 in tobacco cessation money in the state Department of Health’s budget also was transferred to help fund the drug courts.
“We probably have around $500,000 left,” Pritchard said Wednesday, adding that there is no funding in the proposed 2012-2013 fiscal year budget for the 41 drug courts.
Richard Weiss, director of the state Department of Finance and Administration, spoke against Pritchard’s proposal, saying the tobacco settlement money was already obligated to fund a variety of grants.
After approving Pritchard’s proposal, the panel then approved a recommendation by Sen. David Burnett, D-Osceola, to add two more drug courts and fund them with $392,000, if money is available.
After the vote on Burnett’s proposal, some lawmakers expressed concern about transferring money from the Tobacco Settlement Commission to fund the 41 drug courts for the next fiscal year and then recommending two additional two drug courts.
“We just transferred $3 million to fund the drug courts and obviously we’ve got a problem with funding them and now we’re going to create two more,” Rep. Buddy Lovell, D-Marked Tree, said after the meeting.
“I think there was probably some buyer’s remorse after we approved the second amendment,” Webb said later.
She said the budget panel would take up the measure again later.