12/19/2011 6:36:00 AM County officials relieved prisoner transfers, forced contributions may be nixed
PRESCOTT - Gov. Jan Brewer's announcement Thursday that she would pull two key items that shifted costs to counties out of the state's next budget is an early Christmas present to Yavapai County officials.
The two programs to be cut are a planned prisoner shift, in which inmates sentenced to a year or less would have been housed in county jails, at county expense, instead of state prisons, and a mandatory "contribution" to the state budget from Yavapai and four other counties' treasuries.
Arizona's fiscal outlook is improving, and Brewer said the state could handle the burden.
"When we see things turning around, it was very rewarding to me to come here to share some good news," said Brewer.
The contribution in particular has been a sore spot with Yavapai County officials. The county is essentially being punished for being solvent, said county Administrator Julie Ayers said in August: "Because we made the tough (fiscal) decisions" the state is taking funds.
Supervisors derided as a euphemism the term "contribution" because the state simply took the $1.4 million - the county had no choice - and gave nothing in return.
The prisoner shift could be problematic, said Ayers, because it has already been enacted into law, so legislative action will be needed to ensure that it doesn't take place in July.
The chairman of the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors, Tom Thurman (District 2), said he was pleased but warned that Brewer could propose whatever she wants; the Legislature still has to approve the budget.
"I am very happy with the governor, "Thurman said. He noted that three of the top legislative offices are held by people from Yavapai County, which made him hopeful about upcoming negotiations.
"They (the Legislature) have a (proposed) budget, too, and we go in there and battle it around," Brewer said.