Yesterday, the House Ways and Means Committee released its $32.3 billion budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2013, marking the second phase of the annual state budget process. Debate on the budget will begin the week of April 23rd and then the focus will move to the Senate. The final budget will be presented to Governor Patrick in time for the beginning of the new fiscal year beginning July 1st.
The BBA likes to view the budget through the lens of the entire justice system – focusing on the impact that the state budget has on our state courts, our civil legal aid providers, the Committee for Public Counsel Services, and the District Attorneys’ Offices – rather than seeing the budget appropriations as unrelated pieces. Adequate funding of the entire justice system in Massachusetts is essential to ensure the equal and timely access to justice.
Before comparing the House budget to the Governor’s budget, it is important to know that the two budgets begin with different revenue figures. The House budget does not rely on any new taxes or new fees while the Governor’s budget that was released in January did. The Governor’s budget – which Issue Spot commented on when it was released too – included new revenue from a higher cigarette tax, an expansion of the bottle bill, and a sales tax for soda and candy.
Some takeaway’s from the House budget:
The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation – MLAC’s request for FY 13 was $14.5 million
- House Ways and Means budget: $11 million
- Governor’s budget: $12 million
*Read last week’s Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Op-Ed for more (log-in required)
The Massachusetts Trial Court – The Trial Court’s request for FY 13 was $593.9 million. This “critical need” funding would have provided for some limited hiring to restore services.
- House Ways and Means budget: $554 million – includes the Probation Department in the Judiciary
- Governor’s budget: $429.7 million – moves the Probation Department to the Executive Branch
*Check out the Trial Court’s graph to see the dramatic decline in personnel and helpful information on their case filings and funding.
Committee for Public Counsel Service – CPCS’s request for FY 13 was $186.4 million.
- House Ways and Means budget: $162.6 million – includes a $23.7 million cut to the private counsel line item. The House Ways and Means budget does not include a mandated staff expansion that the Governor’s budget proposed.
- Governor’s budget: $164. 5 million – proposes a CPCS expansion increasing the 25% staff model to a 50% staff model to handle indigent criminal cases.
Government Relations Director
Boston Bar Association