|Budget Issue:||Ongoing reductions to the judicial branch budget and proposed increase of civil fees|
|Finding or Recommendation:||Reject the Governor's January budget proposal for budget bill language providing full authority to Judicial Council to allocate $350 million in reductions to branch. Adopt specific actions to acheive ongoing savings, including the approval of the Governor's proposed increase of civil fees. Require the judicial branch to submit a report on potential operational efficiencies.|
Over the last four years, the judicial branch has experienced various one-time and ongoing budget reductions as the state has faced large budget shortfalls. The Governor’s 2012-13 budget reflects the cumulative ongoing reductions totaling $653 million facing the judicial branch, including the continuation of the $350 million reduction enacted in 2011-12. Judicial branch entities previously addressed these reductions by implementing various operational changes, such as furlough days and closing courtrooms. In addition, the branch offset a large portion of these cuts through the routine use of one-time transfers from branch special funds in order to minimize the impacts upon trial court operations. In the current year, these one-time transfers offset $302 million of the cumulative reduction.
The Governor’s 2012-13 budget continues the ongoing reduction to the branch, provides Judicial Council with full authority to implement the reduction among branch entities, and proposes increasing civil fees to generate $50 million in new revenues to help the branch address their reduction. To the extent the Legislature approves the Governor’s proposal, ongoing solutions should be identified and implemented in 2012-13, particularly since recent transfers and loans from branch special funds have greatly reduced the fund balances available as a potential budget solution. Specifically, we recommend the Legislature reject the Governor’s proposed budget bill language authorizing Judicial Council to allocate the reductions, adopt specific actions to achieve ongoing savings in the judicial branch, and require that the judicial branch submit a report on potential operational efficiencies.
Please see our policy brief, The 2012-13 Budget: Managing Ongoing Reductions to the Judicial Branch, for more information.