As if the governor’s plan to whack $200 million from the judiciary’s budget wasn’t bad enough, a Democratic lawmaker suggested Thursday that the branch should look for even more places to ax.
State Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, told branch leaders that $200 million might not be enough given the $25 billion deficit the state is facing. “You ought to do a little bit more, considering the cuts on the table,” Wolk said at a budget subcommittee hearing at the Capitol, where protesters were camped on the steps outside to decry proposals to slash health and human services programs.
The judiciary’s goal, she continued, should be “not to reduce the amount of the [$200 million] allocation but to, in fact, increase that a little bit.”
It was the second budget slap in a week from the Capitol. Two days ago the legislative analyst’s office suggested the Legislature could cut $356 million from the judiciary, mostly by tapping reserve and construction funds. Wolk’s pointed remarks were also a signal that branch may not find automatic protection from typical legislative allies this year.
The subcommittee hearing as a whole also revealed political fissures that may make any budget agreement difficult to negotiate. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Maryanne Gilliard urged lawmakers on behalf of the Alliance of California Judges to dump the branch’s costly computer network-in-development, CCMS. Mike Belote, a lobbyist for the California Judges Association, said that his organization supports CCMS and that he could find plenty of judges to speak about the computer network’s benefits.
And that was after representatives of sheriffs, defense lawyers, unions and court reporters all testified against a host of suggested cuts to the branch budget. What’s more, court leaders say they have major disagreements over some of the figures the legislative analyst’s office has used to gauge spending.
The governor says he wants a budget deal by early March. For the judicial branch, that deadline seems especially short.