State Court Budget Boost

California courts stopped hemorrhaging money in the 2014 budget, with a $105 million increase in Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget, released Thursday.  But that wasn’t good enough news for Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye who pointed out the courts have lost $1 billion in the last six years to the budget axe.

“I appreciate the Governor’s fiscal prudence as well as his recognition of the need for reinvestment in the judicial branch,” she said.  And she added she will “continue my discussions with the Governor, stressing the critical unmet needs of the branch.”

Brown proposed a $3.27 billion state courts budget for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.  A significant change is the gutting of local county court reserve funds with the $100 million increase going to support a centralized reserve fund, largely used as rainy day protection.

The idea is to smooth out the county-to-county differences in ability to recover from economic downturns or sudden, unexpected costs to the courts.

Local court judges have often groused about the central, top-down administration of court funding and prefer local control of funds.

But Brown’s budget would opt for a Judicial Council-controlled reserve fund to help smaller counties such things as the mortgage meltdown that hit the Central Valley particularly hard.  The Judicial Council is the policy-setting body of the state courts.

Brown said the change would help the courts move to a completely state-funded court system over the local county funding of each court.

In addition, Brown wants all trial court employees to start making contributions to their pensions.  “There are some employees in the court system that still pay nothing into their pensions,” said Michael Cohan, Department of Finance Director, during a Thursday press conference in Sacramento.

 

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