Four days before the state constitutional deadline to pass a budget, the spending plan for California's courts remains a murky work in progress. But an Assembly document released Monday may offer a few clues.
The 108-page "plan" the Assembly Budget Committee will consider Tuesday suggests the judicial branch won't escape the $544 million in cuts proposed by the governor. The state's swipe of $240 million in construction funds appears to be a foregone conclusion. The judiciary is also expected to lose another $300 million, but whether it all comes from trial court reserves as the governor proposed was the topic of ongoing negotiations late Monday.
The Assembly's budget plan hints that lawmakers are considering a different formula. One proposal floated around the Capitol Monday called for a 15 percent cut to the Administrative Office of the Courts -- lower than the 30 percent one assemblyman put forward last month. Some $240 million would still be drained from trial court reserves and another $45 million in cuts would be made at the Judicial Council's discretion. Higher appellate filing fees are also on the table.
That could all change by Tuesday's committee meeting. But it's clear that the governor's plan to effectively end trial courts' ability to keep reserves is unpopular with lawmakers. What's less obvious is whether, with so many other cuts in the state budget, the governor's office and legislators have any interest in sparring over the courts' issues.
The Senate Budget Committee is scheduled to meet at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.