Fact Check: Judicial Branch Budget and Proposals for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 (Updated)

Reinvesting in Our Justice System

(May 2013 update)

A new survey issued by the National Center for State Courts shows that, of the state funded court systems, the courts receive approximately two percent of the General Fund, or twice the California level.  The difference equates to roughly $1 billion.

Among state funded entities, the judicial branch was requested this year to develop budgeting reforms. In response, the branch developed and implemented a historic new workload based methodology for calculating budget requirements in each court and for allocating a state appropriation to all trial courts, starting immediately with fiscal year (FY) 2013–2014. That positive reform warrants reinvestment of General Fund to stave off further curtailments in public service.

Details Regarding Four Components of the Proposed Funding Solutions

Fiscal Components

  • $125 million – Last year, in preparation for the vote on Proposition 30, the Governor’s FY 2012–2013 budget was prepared identifying funding that would be permanently withdrawn, entity by entity, should Proposition 30 fail. Included in these “ballot trigger reductions” was $125 million for the judicial branch.  In the May Revision, $125 million was taken from the branch budget and the $125 million was removed from the trigger list. Proposition 30 thereafter passed, sparing others on the list from “trigger” cuts. A return of the $125 million, comprised of $75 million for branch operations, and $50 million in the court construction revenue stream, represents a remedy to the disparate budgetary outcome experienced by the branch budget in FY 2012–2013.

  • $49.3 million – This equals the total amount by which the employer share of the cost of employee benefits/pension contributions are projected to increase in FY 2013–2014. Previously, increases in this area were covered by a technical upward adjustment to judicial baseline budgets from the general fund. Indeed, the Governor’s FY 2013–2014 budget proposes continued use of that technical adjustment process for executive branch agencies but not for the judicial branch. Instead the judicial branch is scheduled to absorb these increases without added resources. This request simply reflects equivalent treatment between executive branch agencies and the judicial branch.

  • $150 million – This is the amount by which the FY 2011–2012 judicial branch budget was permanently reduced (comprised of $144.4 million for the Superior Courts, $1.3 million for the Courts of Appeal, $285,000 for the Supreme Court, and $3.7 million for the Judicial Council/AOC, and $291,000 for the Habeas Corpus Resource Center). A reinvestment of these sums will prevent more branch budget reductions in FY 2013–2014, which would lead to restricted access to court customers and would promote dependence on user fees. The Judicial Council’s historic reform of the trial court funding allocation methodology, in response to the Governor’s request, will better ensure that these resources are targeted to maximize public benefit. That reform supports reinvestment in the judicial branch.

Policy Component - Fund Balance

  • Absent other solutions, this request, to restore the structure in the Lockyer-Isenberg Trial Court Funding Act of 1997 which enables courts, over time, to accumulate saved dollars for use in managing cash flow challenges, prudently replacing worn out or failing equipment, and planning long term projects to improve customer service, preserves a progressive reform.

Summary of Branchwide Proposed Funding Solutions for FY 2013–2014

$475 million
    - $125 million – Reversal of permanent reduction FY 2012–2013
    • $75 million – Branchwide operations reduction
    • $50 million – Immediate & Critical Needs Account (ICNA) redirection (equals $500 million in construction)

    - $150 million – Reversal of permanent FY 2011–2012 reduction

    - $200 million – Reversal of proposed one-time ICNA reduction

    $18.5 million – Appellate Courts – core operations costs

    $49.3 million– Employee benefit/pension increases – statewide
    $542.8 million Total

    Breakdown into Operations and Construction

    $292.8 million – Branchwide operations

    $50 million – Reversal of permanent ICNA redirection

    $200 million – Reversal of proposed one-time ICNA redirection to operations
    $542.8 million – Total

    Printable version

    May 2013 update

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