Judicial leaders cheered last week when the governor proposed restoring $100 million siphoned from California’s courts budget in 2009. But today the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office called any funding restoration a bad idea.The LAO’s analysis of the governor’s revised May budget urges lawmakers to reject his plans to eliminate welfare and child care services for the poor and look instead to public universities, public safety and, yes, trial courts for additional savings.
“These spending reductions — in conjunction with other budget actions — could facilitate maintenance of the state’s core programs,” the report said.
In a separate analysis, the LAO said the judicial branch and the 58 trial courts should all dip into their “significant” reserves instead of relying on $100 million from the state’s general fund.
“Although the trial courts have plans to use some of the unspent funds to implement various projects, we believe that the courts could prioritize the use of the significant fund balances and reserves that would remain to move forward with their highest priority projects and delay those projects deemed to be of lower priority,” the analysis concluded.
AOC Finance Director Stephen Nash today said that he recognizes state budget-writers are faced with some “devastating, huge, horrible, horrible cuts.” But keeping that $100 million is not the answer, he said.
“You could potentially” soak up all the branch and court reserves to keep courts operating, he said, but “In our view, it’s very short-sighted. It doesn’t look at what would happen not only next year but in the years after that” if the $100 million shortfall persisted.
The governor’s courts proposal has not been formally scrutinized yet by legislators.