Thursday, December 6, 2012
Jahr Warns of Crisis ‘Escalation’ by Brown Administration
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A disagreement between the Brown administration and the judicial branch leadership over the implementation of last year’s court funding agreement threatens to significantly reduce the branch’s anticipated funding for the fiscal year beginning July 1, the courts’ top administrator warned yesterday.
Administrative Director of the Courts Steven Jahr, in a letter to branch members made public by his office, outlined the branch’s response to “a potential escalation of the budget crisis for our branch” and asked judicial officers and court administrators for assistance.
“Since the enactment of the state Budget Act on June 27, 2012, the judicial branch, consistent with budget legislation, has operated on the basis that trial courts had two full years (until June 30, 2014) to spend down accumulated fund balances, using their best business judgment, on a court-by-court basis, to cushion the shock of what has amounted to a one-third cut in operations budgets since fiscal year 2008–2009….
“Last Thursday…I received information from the state Department of Finance…advising that restoration of the one-time portion ($415 million) of this year’s $540 million funding reduction would in fact be only $218 million, because DOF is proposing that the Governor sweep $200 million in remaining court reserves at the end of the 2012–2013 fiscal year to make up the balance of the restoration. They have not stated how, if at all, the reduction would be allocated across the courts.”
‘Assaults on Funding’
The courts and the administration, he explained, had agreed last year that “to protect the interests of the public against assaults on funding the branch” the trial courts would be able to hold on to those reserves for an additional year. But when he met with Director of Finance Ana Matosantos on Tuesday, Jahr explained, “ she indicated that the agreement her office had reached with the Legislature in settling the budget anticipated sweeping these funds, despite the Budget Act trailer bill language, which gave the trial courts until June 30, 2014, to spend down fund balances. “
Jahr estimated that this will mean “a further $261 million of reduced support, totaling a reduction of $475 million to the trial courts statewide, despite all previously successful efforts to find offsets and obtain revenue enhancements.”
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Jahr disclosed, plans to meet with Gov. Jerry Brown next Wednesday “to meet with the Governor to communicate the dire consequences of this potential action.”
Jahr said presiding judges, working with Trial Court Presiding Judges Advisory Committee Chair Judge Laurie M. Earl, will be contacting legislators for support on the issue. “Where you can provide assistance, I encourage you to work with your presiding judge to do so,” he said.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company