FACTS VS. FICTION – “Guaranteed Funding”
Fiction: “The 2.25% funding commitment tied to the annual GR appropriation creates a constitutional guarantee of
adequate funding for the judicial branch.”
FACT: The courts were not consulted and have never supported a constitutional “set point” for “adequate funding.”
Because the entities included in the “Judicial Branch” are not defined in the proposal, it is not possible to determine whether
funding will be sufficient to address the fiscal needs of the courts system either now or in the future. Furthermore, the 2.25%
is an arbitrary figure. While 2.25% of GR would be an increase to the courts' current budget, it would not be enough to
fund the legislative budget request developed by the courts several years ago when the State Courts System was asked to
identify the amount of money needed for adequate funding, including the new judgeships that have been certified but not
funded over the last several years.
Using an arbitrary percentage does not tie court funding to workload. Almost all funding formulas for judges and for staff
are tied back to filings. Filings could increase or decrease significantly, but the level of court funding would remain the same.
As a practical matter, a constitutional funding formula would serve as a ceiling or cap; because of competing demands for
state revenues, increasing the judicial branch budget above 2.25% would be extremely difficult, even in the face of
compelling justification for additional funds. In addition, because the set point is tied to the state’s GR each year and subject
to significant reductions during an economic downturn, the proposal is not a “funding guarantee.” In addition, it does nothing
to ensure that the revenue generated by the courts is used to support the courts. In short, the proposed funding scheme
not only perpetuates many of the problems associated with ensuring necessary funding for the judicial branch each fiscal
year, it is likely to create additional impediments to adequate funding in the future.