Our take on the policy argument is that Idaho's Joint Finance-Appropriations (budget) Committee's action restoring $10.7 million to the Office of Drug Policy - money that would be aimed at maintaining drug treatment services at existing levels, rather than being sliced to ribbons - was the right move. But it also had a secondary beneficial side effect: Exposing why the cut was proposed in the first place, and maybe revealing more even than that.
Last year Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter brought together several anti-drug state efforts under one roof, the ODP, and put former legislator Debbie Field in charge. The office handled significant funds, including a large $21 million federal grant. That money is going away, leaving the substance abuse treatment efforts with a measly $3 million. In preparing the proposed budget for this session, she proposed replacing much of it. In making his budget decisions, Otter eliminated the backfill, drastically cutting drug treatment programs.
Policy note here: He was doing that at the same time he was calling for major stat rampups on prison spending. That would suggest he'd rather spend vastly more money on warehousing people who have gotten deeper and deeper into trouble than spending fewer bucks working to keep them out of trouble and productive in the state's society. But that wasn't the argument he made. (more…)