LAO Analysis of the 1996-97 Budget Bill
Judiciary and Criminal Justice Overview

Major Issues


Total expenditures for judiciary and criminal justice programs are proposed to increase significantly in the budget year. The principal reason for the increase is the projected increase in the state's prison population. In addition, the budget proposes to consolidate the costs of operation of the trial courts at the state level, and assumes the receipt of large amounts of federal funds to offset the costs of incarcerating and supervising undocumented felons.

The budget proposes total expenditures of $5.3 billion for judiciary and criminal justice programs in 1996-97. This is an increase of $462 million, or 9.5 percent, over estimated current-year spending. This increase is primarily due to the projected increase in the state's prison population. The budget also proposes to consolidate funding for operation of the trial courts at the state level. As part of this proposal, counties would transmit $890 million to the state that would, in turn, be appropriated to the courts in the Budget Bill (these funds are not counted in the expenditure figures).

The budget proposes General Fund expenditures of $4.7 billion for judiciary and criminal justice programs, which is about 10 percent of all General Fund spending. This amount represents an increase of $68 million, or about 1.5 percent, above estimated General Fund expenditures in the current year. This relatively small increase is misleading because it masks two important funding shifts which when taken into account result in General Fund expenditures increasing by $412 million, or 8.5 percent. First, as part of the trial court funding consolidation proposal, the Governor's Budget proposes to shift about $298 million in General Fund revenues to the Trial Court Trust Fund and, in turn, expend this amount from this fund rather than the General Fund. Second, the Governor's Budget assumes that the state will receive $324 million in federal funds to offset the costs of incarcerating and supervising undocumented felons in state prison and the Department of the Youth Authority.

Figure 1 shows expenditures from all state funds for judiciary and criminal justice programs since 1989-90. Figures for 1994-95 through 1996-97 have been reduced to reflect the budget's assumption that the state will receive federal funds to offset costs of handling undocumented felons. As Figure 1 shows, total expenditures for judiciary and criminal justice programs have increased by $1.9 billion since 1989-90, representing an average annual increase of 6.7 percent.

Figure 1 also displays spending when adjusted for inflation. On this basis, total spending increased an average of 3.6 percent annually between 1989-90 and 1996-97. The share of the state's General Fund spending allocated to the judiciary and criminal justice has increased from 8.3 percent in 1989-90 to 10 percent in 1996-97.

It should be noted that, like last year, the federal funds assumed for 1996-97 to cover the state's costs of incarcerating and supervising undocumented offenders are counted as offsets to state expenditures and are not shown in the budgets of the California Department of Corrections (CDC) and the Youth Authority, or in the Budget Bill. Thus, the Governor's Budget would hold the CDC and the Youth Authority budgets harmless should the federal funds not materialize.

Spending by Major Programs

Figure 2 (see page 8) shows expenditures for the major judiciary and criminal justice programs in 1994-95, 1995-96, and as proposed for 1996-97. As the figure shows, the CDC accounts for the largest share of total spending in the criminal justice area.

Figure 2
Judiciary and Criminal Justice Budget Summarya
1994-95 Through 1996-97
(Dollars in Millions)
Estimated 1995-96 Proposed
Changes From
Amount Percent
Department of Corrections
General Fund $2,902.2 $3,253.4 $3,602.7 $349.4 10.7%
Bond funds 34.9 15.8 17.2 1.3 8.4
Totals $2,937.2 $3,269.2 $3,619.9 $350.7 10.7%
Department of the Youth Authority
General Fund $359.5 $389.6 $369.9 -$19.7 -5.0%
Bond funds 14.9 11.0 7.2 -3.8 -34.9
Totals $374.4 $400.6 $377.1 -$23.5 -5.9%
Trial Court Fundingb
General Fund $482.8 $507.9 $215.2 -$292.7 -57.6%
Special funds 155.0 155.5 544.6 389.1 250.2
Totals $637.8 $633.4 $759.8 $96.4 14.5%
General Fund $152.5 $173.0 $183.3 $10.3 5.9%
Department of Justice
General Fund $198.2 $198.8 $211.6 $12.8 6.4%
Special funds 55.2 62.0 59.1 -2.9 -4.7
Federal funds 16.4 18.9 15.4 -3.6 -18.8
Totals $269.8 $279.8 $286.0 $6.3 2.2%
Office of Criminal Justice Planning
General Fund $26.1 $28.4 $30.9 $2.5 8.9%
Special funds 17.0 17.2 17.5 0.3 1.7
Federal funds 58.3 76.2 74.9 -1.2 -1.6
Totals $101.3 $121.8 $123.4 $1.6 1.3%
a Details may not add to totals due to rounding.
b Trial Court Funding figures for 1996-97 do not include $890 million in proposed contributions by counties that would be appropriated to trial courts in the Budget Bill.

Major Budget Changes

Figure 3 (see page 9) presents the major budget changes resulting in a net increase of $462 million in total state spending for the judiciary and criminal justice. Generally, the major changes can be categorized as follows:

Figure 3
Judiciary and Criminal Justice
Proposed Major Changes for 1996-97
All State Funds
Department of CorrectionsRequested:$3.8 billion
Increase:$360 million(+10.5%)
+ $243 million for inmate and parole population increases
+ $100 million for full-year impacts of current-year expenditures
+ $36 million for merit salary increases and retirement contribution rate changes
+ $29 million for medical and mental health services for inmates
+ $22 million for inflation adjustments and price increases
- $71 million for various limited-term and one-time expenditures
Department of the Youth AuthorityRequested:$436 million
Increase:$5.6 million(+1.3%)
+ $6.1 million for gang intervention program grants to counties for mentoring programs
+ $38 million shifted from General Fund to reimbursements from counties due to increased fees for placement of offenders in the Youth Authority ($7.5 million in the current year)
+ $1.7 million for ward and parole population reductions (including changes to law to transfer some offenders to state prison)
Trial Court FundingRequested:$1.6 billion
Increase:$986 million(+149%)
+ $981 million for increased state support of trial courts ($890~million reimbursed by counties and $91 million from increased filing fee revenues)
+ $3.4 million for "Three Strikes Relief Team"-30 retired judges to handle backlog of "Three Strikes" criminal cases
+ $2 million for creation of 20 new judgeships in last quarter

The Budget Proposes to Provide Full Funding for Caseload and Certain Other Cost Increases.This includes funding for projected inmate population increases of 12 percent in the CDC and ward population decreases of about 2.7 percent in the Youth Authority. The budget contains no proposals that would result in any significant reduction in the total inmate and ward population. The budget assumes the enactment of legislation to shift new "M cases" (state prisoners age 18 and over serving their sentences at the Youth Authority) to the CDC. (The budget reduces the Youth Authority's budget to reflect the change but does not include a corresponding increase in the CDC's budget.)

In addition, the budget proposes to provide full funding for caseload increases in several other judicial and criminal justice programs. These include the Judicial's court-appointed counsel program and the Department of Justice's (DOJ) program that handles appeals in criminal cases.

The budget provides augmentations to the CDC and the Judicial branch for the costs of merit salary adjustments that will be granted in 1996-97, while requiring most other state departments to absorb these costs. In addition, the budget includes funds for inflation adjustments and price increases in the CDC. The only other state agencies to receive funds for General Fund inflation adjustments were the University of California, the California State University, the Franchise Tax Board, and the Trade and Commerce Agency's foreign trade offices.

The Budget Proposes to Consolidate and Restructure the Trial Court Funding Program.Currently, the state funds about 37 percent of the costs of trial courts from the General Fund and the Trial Court Trust Fund and the counties provide the remaining 63 percent. The Governor's Budget proposes the following:

In the budget year, the net effect of these changes is to essentially hold the state's General Fund costs of the trial courts to the same level as in the current year. In future years, however, the state's costs would increase since the state would be completely responsible for funding growth in trial court costs. The changes will require legislation.

The budget also proposes $3.4 million from the General Fund to establish a "Three Strikes Relief Team" of 30 retired trial court judges to handle a backlog of "Three Strikes" felony cases. It also includes an additional $2 million from the General Fund to support 20 new trial court judgeships, which the budget assumes would be established in the last quarter of 1996-97.

The Budget Assumes Receipt of Federal Funds for Incarceration and Parole of Undocumented Immigrants.As indicated above, the budget assumes that the state will receive $324 million in federal funds in 1996-97 to offset the state's costs to incarcerate and supervise undocumented immigrants in the CDC and the Youth Authority. This is an increase of $46 million over the Governor's Budget's estimate of the amount the state will receive in the current year. Of the current-year amount, $45 million is available from existing federal appropriations for federal fiscal year (FFY) 1995. The administration's estimates of the remaining funds are based on appropriations contained in the FFY 96 State, Commerce, and Justice appropriations bill, which the President recently vetoed, and its projections for FFY 97 appropriations. (We discuss issues regarding federal funds in greater detail in "Crosscutting Issues" later in this chapter of the Analysis.)

The Budget Proposes a Number of New Program Initiatives and Augmentations.The budget proposes funding for a number of new program initiatives. For example, $6.1 million is proposed in the Youth Authority and Office of Criminal Justice Planning (OCJP) for several new programs relating to intervention with juvenile gangs. In addition, the budget proposes $3 million to expand to counties the Youth Authority's "Young Men as Fathers" program as part of the Governor's overall proposal relating to mentoring (other parts of this proposal are included in the budgets of health and welfare departments).

The budget also proposes significant augmentations for continuation or expansion of existing programs, such as upgrades of inmate health care services ($29 million), continuation of development and implementation of the major new CDC information system ($14 million), expansion of the DOJ's Statewide Integrated Narcotics System (SINS) ($5 million), and upgrades to the DOJ's forensic laboratories ($2.9 million).

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