Friday, May 14, 2004
Schwarzenegger’s Revised Budget Includes Increased Trial Court Funds
By DAVID KLINE
SACRAMENTO (Capitol)—Gov. Arnold Schwar-zenegger released his revised state budget proposal yesterday, making official his plan to increase trial court funding for the next fiscal year while also seeking reform of the collective bargaining process for court employees.
“It is a responsible budget that protects necessary programs, enforces spending discipline and does not raise taxes,” Schwarzenegger said.
The trial court funding changes were announced May 7 by Schwarzenegger administration Finance Director Donna Arduin. She said compared to current funding, the trial courts will receive a $40 million increase in the fiscal year which begins July 1, rather than the $59 million cut proposed in January.
The shift, Department of Finance documents made public this week indicate, will be accompanied by budget bill language which would require the California Judicial Council to make recommendations by November on reforming court collective-bargaining.
The goal of the reform, the documents suggest, is to give the governor’s Department of Finance and the Administrative Office of the Courts the ability to veto collective-bargaining agreements between superior courts and their employees if the agreements would increase court spending.
The governor’s revised budget also would increase court security funding by $28.8 million to cover contracts with sheriffs; eliminate juror pay for government employees to save $2.3 million; increase use of electronic court reporting, through attrition rather than replacement of current employees, to save $6.4 million; and increase funding to the Judges Retirement System I by $27.6 million, directly from the state General Fund.
Details of the court proposals and other budget-related items are expected to be hammered out as the Democrat-controlled Legislature and the Republican governor negotiate the budget over the next month.
At yesterday’s press conference, Schwarzenegger did not mention the trial court proposal specifically, but did include the courts in a list of government entities after a proclamation that “everyone has to tighten their belts.”
Schwarzenegger’s revised budget calls for $102.8 billion in total spending, up from the $99 billion plan he proposed in January, and also larger than the $100 billion budget approved last year by Gov. Gray Davis.
General Fund spending in the latest proposal would total $77.6 billion, up from the $76 billion proposed in January, but down slightly from the $78 billion approved by Davis.
Schwarzenegger said an unpredicted $1 billion increase in tax revenue allowed his administration to back off of plans to scale back spending on a number of health and welfare programs.
The governor stressed that his plan does not include tax increases.
“I remain firmly opposed to tax increases,” he said. “Higher taxes have no place in our California recovery.”
Schwarzenegger stressed that his priority is to improve the state’s business climate, which in turn could increase state revenues without tax rate increases.
“It is all about how do we keep businesses in California,” he said.
Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Sacramento, welcomed the governor’s approach.
“Tax hikes hurt mom-and-pop businesses, diminish job opportunities and shackle our economy,” Leslie said. “....We’re in the midst of an economic recovery, so higher taxes would only hurt us. I’m glad the governor understands this.”
The governor held his press conference at the Secretary of State’s Office in Sacramento, which has room for a larger audience than the Capitol room where previous governors held most of their press briefings. The audience included a large group of administration officials who gave the governor a standing ovation when he arrived.
When Schwarzenegger left the podium, an aide played The Beatles’ “Come Together” on the sound system.
Finance Director Arduin, who spoke after the governor, joked that she tried to time her entrance with the lyrics, “One and one and one makes three.”
Because the governor began his press conference at 3 p.m., reporters for the MetNews and many other newspapers did not have time before deadline to solicit reaction from parties with a stake in the budget negotiations.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company