Official English' plan may not save much money
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 20, 2005

Elvia Díaz
It costs at least $1.4 million annually to produce Arizona government documents in Spanish and other languages, according to an analysis of 19 state agencies.

But state government would likely continue the practice of producing documents in languages other than English because most are either required by federal law or are exempt under a measure aimed at declaring English as the state's official language.

Rep. Russell Pearce first estimated that his proposed 2006 Official English ballot measure would save millions of dollars of taxpayers' money. The referendum would require government functions to be carried out in English. He now maintains it was less about money than protecting an "English-speaking nation."

The money spent to print government documents in Spanish comes from state coffers and the federal government. A few examples:

• Department of Economic Security - $830,200, of which $160,300 comes from the state. The documents include applications for services and brochures explaining clients' rights.

• Department of Health - $261,000 of which the bulk might not be affected since the Spanish-language documents deals with public health. Among them are immunizations, childhood lead poisoning and brochures about West Nile Virus prevention.

• Department of Transportation - $100,000 to produce such things as driver's license applications, driver's license manuals, advertising, handouts and brochures.

• Lottery - about $100,000 paid to a multicultural advertising agency to produce Spanish-language materials.

• Department of Corrections - roughly $7,000 to produce forms regarding access to health care, orientation handbooks and safety and sanitation signs for inmates, among other documents.

The costs for smaller state agencies are considered small.

"It's not about money, though there is a huge cost," said Pearce, a Mesa Republican, who asked state agencies to detail how much is spent on producing documents other than English. "This is about protecting this English-speaking nation. America is about English."

Pearce believes state agency officials didn't itemize all they spent on the documents and blames Gov. Janet Napolitano. Her spokeswoman, Jeanine L'Ecuyer, calls the accusation "nonsense."

Pearce's legislation, House Concurrent Resolution 2030, exempts any documents necessary to protect the public's health and safety as well as international trade and tourism.

That means Spanish-speaking people in prison would continue to receive prison orientation handbooks and to read sanitation signs in their language. Other Arizona residents would still get documents in Spanish ranging from immunization, childhood lead poisoning prevention and sexually transmitted diseases.

Some documents that might not be available if Pearce's measure becomes law include lottery advertising, automobile insurance premium comparisons and driver's license manuals.

"The savings would be minimal," said Rep. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, who opposes the legislation.

The Official English measure would also affect cities and towns in Arizona, although it's unclear how much money might be saved. Mesa, for example, spends at least $63,000 annually on things like water brochures and election material; Peoria spends roughly $28,000 toward the cost of producing election publicity pamphlet in Spanish; and Surprise spends roughly $7,000.

Staff reporters Chuck Kelley, David Madrid and Justin Juozapavicius contributed to this article.