Arizona AG, Governor faceoff over opioid settlement funds being used in state budget

Arizona's Governor and Attorney General, both Democrats, are battling it out over the use of opioid settlement funds being used in the state's budget.

Gov. Katie Hobbs applauded the state's House and Senate approving the budget on June 15, but AG Kris Mayes fired back at the use of settlement funds in the budget, with her office calling it "illegal."

The budget includes using $115 million in settlement dollars to shore up funding in the budget year that ends July 1 of this year and will be reallocated to the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry.

On June 18, Gov. Hobbs signed the budget into law.

On June 20, AG Mayes filed for a temporary restraining order to stop the transfer of the settlement funds. A judge approved it.

(Left) Arizona AG Kris Mayes. (Right) AZ Gov. Katie Hobbs. Photos from Getty Images

Statements from AG Mayes and Gov. Hobbs:

In a statement to FOX 10, AG Mayes says, in full, "The decision by the Governor and the Legislature to sweep opioid settlement funds to backfill budget deficits is illegal, and today I asked the court for an injunction to stop the transfer of these funds. In their rush to end the session, GOP leaders and the Governor ignored other viable options to balance the budget, such as utilizing the rainy-day fund, which has now reached approximately $1.4 billion. This is outrageous. Every Arizonan should ask why the opioid funds were not protected and used to support our communities and prevent opioid use as intended. This decision violates the settlement agreements, and I am determined to stop it. That’s why I made the difficult decision to sue over this issue. This is too important, with too many lives at risk, to get wrong."

Gov. Hobbs' office fired back not long after, saying, in full, "The Attorney General is flatly wrong.  Her characterization of these funds as ‘backfilling’ ADCRR would be more accurately described as funding vital opioid use disorder treatment for a population that is disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic. On her very own website, the Attorney General indicates the funds can be used for opioid treatment at ADCRR. Additionally, her filing mischaracterizes how the money will be used. For example, the AG claims the money will be used for ‘beans, bullhorns, and buses,’ despite the budget explicitly saying the funds may only be used to ‘offset past and current department costs for care, treatment, programs and other expenditures for individuals with opioid use disorder.’ These are all uses that are allowed under the One Arizona Distribution of Settlement Funds Agreement."

Related documents: