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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Town hall focused on AZ budget

    Chris Gustafson, an intern for Senate Democrats, holds a sign signaling the speaker has reached the conclusion of her three minute time limit during the Democratic Public Hearing held in the South Ballroom of the SUMC Thursday night.
    Chris Gustafson, an intern for Senate Democrats, holds a sign signaling the speaker has reached the conclusion of her three minute time limit during the Democratic Public Hearing held in the South Ballroom of the SUMC Thursday night.

    The projected $2.4 billion budget shortfall for fiscal year 2010 has caused Arizona to brace for some deep debt. But instead of consistently cutting education, community members are asking lawmakers to look behind bars.

    Democratic lawmakers from the Arizona House of Representatives and Senate, came to the UA to hear from students, teachers, parents and community members yesterday in the South Ballroom of the Student Union Memorial Center.

    Diane Wilson, a Tucson community member, said Arizonans are appalled to see correctional facilities taking priority in state funding while students are being “”left behind.””

    “”Arizona has significant prison over-crowding and has lead to a correctional budget that has increasingly taken away resources from other programs such as education,”” Wilson said. “”One year in a state prison costs $26,000 per person. That is well over what we spend to educate Arizona students.””

    Sixty-percent of Arizona prisoners are incarcerated for low-level drug use, and Arizona sentencing laws demand prisoners serve at least 85 percent of their sentence before becoming eligible for release, Wilson said.

    “”Most states with similar laws apply them only to violent offences. Arizona applies them to all prisoners across the board,”” Wilson said. “”Arizona must evaluate the effectiveness of our current approach, and reexamine it’s critical justice priorities.””

    Jeff Wright, an economics sophomore, said the legalization of marijuana could resolve prison overcrowding, and the possibility of generating much needed revenue.

    In California, lawmakers have introduced The Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act that would make marijuana legal for persons over the age of 21.

    Supporters say legalization of marijuana would lead to a potential $1.3 billion increase in annual tax revenue for the state of California and an additional $50-per-ounce levy on retail sales.

    Wilson said that kind of added revenue would provide a big boost for Arizona’s economy.

    “”Safety in Arizona means being smart on crime, by smartly reducing prison populations, we can save hundred of thousands of dollars to help save Arizona’s educational system,”” Wilson said.

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