California's massive court system will not share in any of the new revenue bounty in Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget plan.
Clobbered with more than $1 billion in budget cuts over the past few years, the state's judiciary was hoping to get some of that money restored as a result of California's better economic conditions. But the governor did not include any new money for the courts in Tuesday's budget news, which dismayed Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who has pressed hard to gain more funding for the nation's largest state justice system.
"I'm disappointed that the governor's revised budget proposals provide no more fiscal relief to the courts," she said in a statement. "I had hoped for more effort to help stop the downward spiral of the judicial branch budget."
Assembly Speaker John Perez last week indicated he would support more money for the courts in the current budget, although only if stricter controls are in place to monitor the judiciary's spending. Cantil-Sakauye said she is hopeful the Legislature and governor will restore funding for the courts in this summer's final budget negotiations.
Under the governor's budget plan released earlier this year, the court system, from its 58 trial courts to the California Supreme Court, would secure about $3.1 billion in the 2013-14 budget, slightly more than last year. However, judicial leaders would have to divert about $200 million from trial court reserves to reach that funding level, raiding a courthouse construction fund and delaying planned construction projects across the state.
The budget maneuver would not impact Santa Clara County's new family courthouse, which has avoided the budget ax and is slated to break ground in July.
But judges have expressed concern about further draining trial court reserves, citing the fact the governor siphoned $400 million from those funds last year to help cover a $544 million budget cut to the courts.
Meanwhile, the governor plans to spend about $9.1 billion on the state's prison system, including an additional $72.1 million for county probation departments to deal with the ongoing impact of the realignment plan. Brown also warned that one budget uncertainty in the coming years is the potential cost of complying with federal court orders to further reduce the state's inmate population; he warned the ongoing legal conflict could add hundreds of millions of dollars in state expenses if he does not persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn those orders.
Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz