California Courts See Small Funding Bump|in Governor’s Revised Budget

     (CN) – California’s trial courts got a modest $15.5 million bump from Gov. Jerry Brown’s May revised budget to offset declining revenues from fines and court filing fees.
     The funding is on top of $180 million from January’s budget proposal, with $90 million of that going directly to the courts.
     In a statement Thursday, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said she is pleased that Brown’s budget remains largely unchanged from January, and that it recognizes the problem of relying too heavily on fines and fees to keep the courts running.
     “This will be the third year of new investment by the governor to help stabilize funding for the judicial branch,” Cantil-Sakauye said, adding, “The governor’s budget recognizes the need to offset falling revenues related to the potential over-reliance for the state on fines and fees. The judicial branch welcomes changes that improve the practices of properly and fairly applying assessments that allow the public effective access to California’s courts. This is an issue all three branches are working together to resolve.”
     The incremental funding increase comes as the courts, reeling from six years of harsh cuts totaling $1 billion, still struggle with closed courtrooms and shuttered courthouses.
     In January, Brown told reporters that rather than wait for more money, he expects the judicial branch to use its current funding more efficiently.
     “We’re giving the courts more money and we do think they are pressed,” he said. “I know they’ve been facing pressures for a long time. We think we’ve given them the right amount of money but they have to manage it and there are some areas of savings they have to capture.”
     Brown’s latest budget package appears to stand by that point. On Thursday, he said that this May revision focuses on “the fundamentals of what government is supposed to do – health and education.”
     According to Brown’s budget summary, the judicial branch’s total budget will stand at $3.8 billion in fiscal year 2015-2016.

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