Arizona’s New Governor: We Have No Money for Public Education, but Let’s Fund This Private Prison
In his inaugural speech in January, Arizona’s new Republican governor, Doug Ducey, struck a budget hawk’s tone while staring down a $1.5 billion budget shortfall. “Fair warning: The budget will not meet with general approval among special interests.” he said. “I can assure you that a more efficient government is not only necessary, but sensible.” But there was one special interest group that must have been pleased when Ducey rolled out his budget proposal: the private prison industry.
Ducey’s austere budget plan slashed $384 million in state programs, including $75 million in funding for Arizona’s public universities. But it earmarked $5 million for a new, 3,000-bed private prison that even the state’s most notorious law enforcement official, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, argues is unnecessary.
Critics of the plan have argued that funding a private prison is not a one-time expense. The state would be locked in for $100 million in operating costs over three years, and as much as $1.5 billion over the next two decades, according to the Grand Canyon Institute, an Arizona think tank. Beyond that, depending on contract specifics, Arizona is required to keep private facilities at 90 to 100 percent