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Attorney General slams budget passed by legislature, takes aim at Hobbs

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(The Center Square) – Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes slammed the state’s budget that passed the state legislature late Saturday night.

The Democrat specifically expressed concern with opioid settlement funds being heavily allocated toward the Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, and Reentry and even took aim at fellow Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs.

“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,” she said in a statement on Saturday after the budget passed. “Though I repeatedly warned them this is an unlawful use of these funds, they proceeded with moving forward anyway.”

Before lawmakers even voted on the legislation, Mayes threatened possible legal action over the use of funds.

“I am beyond thankful to the legislators who spoke up on this issue and who understand the dire need to use these funds in the manner and intent they are meant to be used for. 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. This is an egregious grab. I will do everything in my power to protect these opioid settlement funds for all Arizonans,” she continued.

The Center Square reported on Friday that the complicated language in the legislation left it up for debate if the funds would technically be below the 30% allowable threshold for substance abuse treatment in the corrections system, as there is a memorandum of understanding that outlines what the funds can and cannot be used for.

“The AG has an unfortunate habit of threatening legal action against other elected officials without doing her homework,” Toma told The Center Square. “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.”

Sen. Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, cited the opioid settlement language as one of the reasons he voted against the budget.

“To just allow $75 million of opioid settlement funds to backfill the general budget of the Department of Corrections, I don’t think will fly legally,” he stated, but he did note that there was language added to the general budget bill that clarifies that the funds spending would be relevant to the settlement’s guidelines.

Overall, the budget comes with a price tag of $16.1 billion, which was riddled with cuts without hiking taxes as the state deals with a $1.4 billion deficit. The major budget bill passed with bipartisan votes for and against, with 34-21 in the House and 17-12 in the Senate.

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