|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Monday, May 10, 2004
Sacramento Bee 5-8-04
Schwarzenegger, courts make deal to halt cuts
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is reversing his proposal to cut state trial court funding, in exchange for judicial leaders' support for state authority over contract negotiations with court employees, the administration announced Friday.
The proposal, which Schwarzenegger's budget spokesman H.D. Palmer said is backed by top court officials, is subject to approval by the Legislature.
The GOP governor proposed in January to cut spending for state trial courts, which receive $2.3 billion from the state's general fund and other sources such as filing fees, by $59 million in the 2004-05 budget year that begins July 1.
As part of the new proposal that will be included in his May budget revision, Schwarzenegger officials will instead propose a $148 million increase over the current year in the state general fund's share of courts spending to help pay for rising costs of employee wages and benefits.
In return, the courts would support proposed legislation to require state participation in future collective bargaining agreements between local trial courts and local court employee unions.
The courts also will not be required to provide an additional 3 percent cut that the administration has asked other departments to make on top of the January budget's cuts.
But Schwarzenegger officials said they will propose about $10 million in cuts to some areas of the courts, including phasing in electronic reporting, reducing some jury sizes and scrapping juror pay for government workers.
The state provides a significant chunk of the funding for trial courts, finance officials said, but currently has no say in talks between local officials and unions that set court worker salaries and benefits.
If the deal is accepted by the Legislature, the state's costs to support the trial courts will have increased by about 60 percent since 1998, a large portion of which pays for salary and benefit increases for trial court employees, according to Department of Finance officials.
The state has provided funding to California's 58 Superior Courts since 1997, but has not participated in negotiations since then.
Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, who sits on the Assembly's judiciary and labor committees, said he is pleased that Schwarzenegger "is being flexible on the depth of his January proposed reductions."
But he and other legislators have said they worry about where the money will come from to restore certain cuts.
"It raises the question of other priorities such as higher education,
health care and transportation and how he might pay for it all,"
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