The governor dropped another budget bombshell on the courts Thursday when finance officials announced they may cut another $165 million from the judicial branch.
Ana Mantasanto, chief deputy director of the Finance Department, told a legislative budget committee that her department is considering an additional $5.5 billion in cuts statewide after the governor announced this morning that he’s dropping nearly $6 billion in borrowing from his revised spending plan.
In addition to the 10 percent hit to courts’ budgets, finance officials are also looking at replacing court reporters with electronic recording devices. The idea has been discussed for years, but the powerful court reporting lobby has always defeated it.
Mantasanto said budget-writers are looking for reductions to programs that aren’t required by federal law.
State judiciary leaders caught off-guard, after the jump.
Bill Vickrey, the Administrative Office of the Courts’ chief executive, is traveling in Washington, D.C., and neither he nor the branch’s finance department knew about the proposed 10 percent cut proposal until Legal Pad asked about it.
“I would hope that ultimately the governor and the Legislature would not do that because on top of the cuts that have already been made and the other structural holes in our budget … that, in my view, results in a reduction that can’t be maintained,” Vickrey said.
Vickrey estimated that a 10 percent cut translates into roughly $165 million lost. That’s on top of the $100 million the Legislature already cut from the branch’s budget earlier this year, plus millions more cut last year.
Such a cut would send plans to close all courthouse doors once a month “totally back to the drawing board,” he said.
Mantasanto said other cost-cutting moves under consideration include eliminating Cal grants, child welfare programs and funding for state parks.
The proposed cuts surprised lawmakers, who had not been alerted to their possibility for Thursday’s hearing.
“We have plenty of drama trying to put this budget gap behind us,” Assembly Budget Chairwoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, said in a prepared statement. “Unexpected twists make for good Hollywood stories but bad governance, especially in a time of crisis.”
— Cheryl Miller
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