PHOENIX — With Arizona's fiscal picture improving, Gov. Jan Brewer wants to cancel a plan to shift thousands of prison inmates to counties.
The governor's proposed next state budget would eliminate a planned shift of thousands of prison inmates to counties, Brewer budget director John Arnold said Thursday.
The shift of prisoners sentenced to a year or less in prison would have cost counties tens of millions of dollars beginning with implementation in mid-2012, and county officials said their still-struggling budgets could not absorb the added costs.
Arnold said Brewer also will propose ending cash payments that the state has required the most populous counties to make to help balance the state budget.
Those payments total $38 million in the current budget, with the money coming from Maricopa, Mohave, Pima, Pinal and Yavapai counties.
County supervisors hailed Brewer's announcement, which Arnold made during a County Supervisors Association meeting attended by Brewer.
"That is a Christmas present with a bow around it. We cannot tell you how relieved we are," said Fulton Brock, a Maricopa County supervisor.
Elimination of the two cost shifts lead the supervisor association's priorities for the upcoming legislative session.
"When we see things turning around, it was very rewarding to me to come here to share some good news," said Brewer, a former county supervisor herself.
Brewer will unveil her full budget proposal in mid-January after the legislative session begins Jan. 9.
What eventually is included in the next state budget will largely depend on budget negotiations between the Republican governor and the GOP-controlled Legislature.