Cuomo: Court's Budget 'Out of Step' With State's Goals
They have stressed that staffing is at its lowest level in a decade, that spending in the current fiscal year is nearly $22 million less than it was in 2009-2010 and that to a large extent the requested increase reflects expenses over which the Judiciary has little or no control.
For instance, the requested budget includes a $17 million increase for the final phase of the statutorily required indigent criminal defense standards, $17.5 million for mandatory raises for non-judicial employees and $8.4 million for the third-phase of a judicial pay hike. There are no new capital projects in the budget. The major new expense would be a $15 million increase in spending for civil legal services, a priority of the chief judge and one that he insists, in the long run, saves money.
In the past, officials said, the Judiciary absorbed statutory and contractual obligations, coming in within zero-growth budgets even as mandatory outlays increased. But court officials have said the judicial system can no longer juggle its expenses without impacting its core mission.
"There is a point beyond which the Judiciary cannot be pushed if it is still to play its role in our constitutional system," Lippman and Prudenti said in the executive summary of the budget they submitted to Cuomo. "We have reached that point."
However, in his commentary Cuomo said he "strongly believe[s] that an efficient and effective Judiciary can robustly fulfill its constitutional duties with a spending increase at or below 2 percent."
Cuomo's budget would keep the increase in state operating funds at 1.7 percent with executive branch agencies held to a nearly flat 0.5 percent growth in the fiscal year that begins April 1. However, he would also increase education aid and health spending by 4 percent each, and boasts that under his leadership the state has gone from a deficit situation to the point where it projects a $2 billion surpus.
The $1.81 billion budget figure highlighted by OCA represents what is known as the "cash funding" number, or the amount of money the courts propose to spend for the fiscal year. Using that figure, the Judiciary is asking for an increase of $44.2 million, or 2.5 percent.
Cuomo, in his budget commentary, focused on appropriations and disbursements, and under that calculus the Judiciary budget would total $2.1 billion, amounting to an increase of 2.7 percent for $53 million.
@|John Caher can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.