A Few Notes, Court Related, On Gov. Brown's Budget Proposal

By William Peacock, Esq. on January 09, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An early leak of Gov. Brown's budget proposal led to a sooner-than-expected unveiling of the plan. As with most political events, no one is happy.

Were you hoping for more funding for our beleaguered court system, either to reduce court crowding, or to add more prosecutor and public defender positions? The modest increase in the budget likely won't help.

The budget also addressed two other issues that have made their way through California courts this year: the state's ill-fated High Speed Rail project, and the prison overcrowding issue that has yet to be resolved.

Court Budget Gets a (Tiny) Boost

In 2012, the California court budget was slashed by $544 million, in addition to the $650 million in cuts that were imposed in the three preceding years.

Gov. Brown's budget proposal includes a whopping $100 million in increased funding for the courts, and it finalizes the shift from local court budgets, which relied heavily on their own reserve funds, to a single judicial counsel controlled fund, reports Courthouse News Service.

The proposal also would require court employees to contribute roughly half the cost of their pensions. At present, there are some that pay nothing whatsoever.

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauya released an official statement highlighting the $1 billion in cuts over the past six years, as well as promising to "continue my discussions with the Governor, stressing the critical unmet needs of the branch."

Remember the court overcrowding case, where requests for time extensions have routinely been denied?

Gov. Brown's budget assumes that a two-year request will be granted, while allocating $500 million for new prison facilities. State officials are negotiation with court representatives ahead of rapidly-approaching Friday deadline that could greatly affect this part of the budget proposal, reports The Washington Post.

The proposal also includes $250 in funding for the currently court-obstructed High Speed Rail project.

Will it Pass?

Obviously not, in its current form.

The way the budget works in this state, for those needing a refresher, is that the governor proposes a budget, the legislature whines loudly, and in six months or so, a compromise is (hopefully) made. So far, the lawmakers' reactions have been mixed, though Gov. Brown's proposal has garnered criticism from both sides of the aisle, reports the Sacramento Bee.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg, (D-Sacramento) after complimenting the Governor's attempts to pay down debt, stated,

"At the same time, we must invest in the people of California, especially those living in the economic margins. I've proposed and remain committed to a balanced framework of 'a third, a third, a third,' where we divide the surplus into reserves, repayment and reinvestment."

Sen. Andy Vidak, (R-Hanford) was far more confrontational with his lengthy criticism of the budget's allocation of controversial cap-and-trade funds for the court-criticized High Speed Rail project, asking, "Governor Brown, why don't you come to your senses?"

And Assemblyman Tim Donney, (R-Twin Peaks) a rumored gubernatorial candidate, outlined about a dozen reasons why he was unhappy with the proposed budget, including the HSR, the unfunded pension obligations, and the 9 percent proposed increase in spending over last year.

No one is happy. Everyone wants more funding for their pet projects. That sounds ... about typical for this state. Lets hope Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauya has better luck playing Oliver Twist than that other Chief Justice.

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