Bush proposes hold-the-line court budget

first_img Bush proposes hold-the-line court budget Bush proposes hold-the-line court budget Mark D. Killian Managing EditorGov. Jeb Bush’s 2002-2003 spending plan for the state court system by and large maintains the status quo as he recommended only a slightly more than $25,000 decrease in court system funding.Coming on the heels of a special session in which lawmakers trimmed $1 billion from the current budget — 1.3 percent of the court’s budget — Bush’s overall $48.7 billion spending plan for next fiscal year is just one percent above what the state is expected to spend this year.And while the Supreme Court has certified a need for 49 new judges — two on the district courts of appeal and 47 for the trial courts — the Governor’s budget provides no funding for any new judges. The budget, however, does include $1.7 million in annualized funds to pay for the remaining six months lapsed salaries and benefits, and recurring expenses associated with the 26 new judgeships created a year ago.The Bush budget also contains no pay raises, but court system workers would be eligible for state employee performance bonuses from a pool of $56 million Bush would like to set aside for that purpose.The Bush budget also calls for trimming approximately 3,000 jobs from the state payroll, 15 of which will come from the state court system. But those court job reductions come as no surprise to the courts as they were the result of the recent special session.The only new spending for the court contemplated in the Governor’s budget are a $175,000 increase to help the Judicial Qualifications Commission with its workload; $67,540 for a building rental increase for the Second District Court of Appeal branch office; and $2,380 for a building rental increase for the JQC.“It is a responsible budget during times of economic uncertainties, where we’re focused on priorities,” Bush said.Lisa Goodner, deputy state courts administrator, said the courts this year submitted a “very modest” budget request and is pleased the Governor chose to recommend the new funding to help aleviate some of the JQC’s workload issues and the rent increases. “That does not seem like a big issue, but it is to us.”Goodner also is hopeful the legislature will take a hard look at some of the other priorities the court has identified, such as the need for new judges.“The court articulated the need but also understands these are some pretty tough economic times,” Goodner said. “So we will have to see where that one goes and a lot is dependant on what type of dollars the legislature finds that it has to work with after the estimating conference in February.”Goodner also said the court system has some building maintenance issues that need to be addressed to keep the facilities in good repair and hopes to secure some additional money for court education projects.Goodner said the Senate also asked the courts to identify any cuts made in the special session that need to be considered for restoration.“We took a pretty substantial cut in the Supreme Court Law Library, we would like for the legislature to restore a portion of that money,” Goodner said. “Plus, they eliminated funding for the Justice Teaching Institute and we ask them to reconsider refunding that.” State Court System Overall, last year the court system got $277,081,498, which funded 2,967 positions. This year the court asked for 3,111 positions and $298.9 million. The Bush budget provides 2,952 positions and $277,056,065. That’s a decrease of $25,433 and 15 positions.division, the Supreme Court has requested an increase from 220 positions and $19.4 million to 227 positions and $22.4 million. The governor recommends 214 positions and $19.2 million.The five district courts of appeal asked for 436 positions and $36.9 million. This year the DCAs operated with 434 positions and $35.5 million. The governor has recommended 434 positions and $35.3 million, or a reduction of $214,567.The trial courts asked for 2,445 positions and $230.5 million, up from 2,310 positions and $205.4 million. Bush has requested 2,301 positions and $214.3 million.Goodner said the trial courts identified the need for 71 new positions, including drug court coordinators in the Third and Sixth circuits – the only two circuits now without drug court coordinators. The trial courts also put in requests for more general masters and staff attorneys to assist trial judges hearing capital cases, as well as other administrative positions, she said.In support of the major crime initiatives Gov. Bush has signed into law — including the 10-20-Life and the Three-Strikes laws — the executive budget also recommends $301.3 million and 5,532 positions for the 20 elected state attorneys. The state attorneys have requested 5,873 positions and $339.5 million. That’s up from 5,521 positions and $295.3 million this year. Public Defenders The executive budget recommends $138.7 million and 2,450 employees for the 20 elected public defenders, a $3.3 million increase, but the same number of employees as this year. The public defenders asked for 3,047 positions and $174.8 million.The executive budget also provides $12.7 million and 181 positions for public defenders in each of the five appellate districts. This year they received $12.2 million, That’s the same amount of funding as this year, with 181 positions. The public defenders appellate division asked for $15.4 million and 218 positions.The executive budget provides $8.9 million and 98 positions to continue the post-conviction representation of capital cases, provided by the three Capital Collateral Regional Counsels. The proposal is up from $8.7 million the CCRCs are operating with this year. The CCRCs requested 127 positions and $12.6 million.The executive budget calls for a $179,711 increase in funding for the Judicial Qualifications Commission, for a total budget of $933,235. The JQC asked for $938,008.center_img February 1, 2002 Managing Editor Regular Newslast_img