Iowa Judicial Branch Newsletter
September 26, 2017
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     Budget Message from David Boyd

Budget Message 

  

As I write this column, we are at what is supposedly the half-way point of the legislative session.  So, where do things stand for the judicial branch?  Frankly, to borrow a phrase from the great baseball philosopher, Yogi Berra, when summarizing the current state of the FY 17 budget discussion:  "It's déjà vu all over again!"  At least it seems that way. 

  

Last month I presented the FY 17 judicial branch operating budget request to the legislature's Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee.  Our request for FY 17 is simple, straightforward, and similar to last year's request.  We are asking for $5.6 million additional funding in order to maintain our current level of service to all Iowans in the fiscal year beginning July 1.  Specifically, the additional $5.6 million is necessary to cover both salary annualizationi.e., the cost of salary increases given during FY 16 along with increases in monthly health insurance premiums—or salary adjustment funds to cover new salary increases and insurance premium increases in FY 17.  Additionally, we are requesting a 5% salary increase for judges and magistrates, totaling $2.3 million.  Judges and magistrates have had only one salary increase since July 1, 2008.  

  

Just as this time a year ago, there is no agreement between the House, Senate, and Governor on the total size of the state's FY 17 budget, let alone on how much will be allotted to each of the joint appropriation subcommittees.  Here's what we do know.  The Governor's proposed FY 17 budget is $7.412 billion, and it includes the entire amount requested by the judicial branch.  Senate Democrats have set their budget target for FY 17 at $7.408 billion.  House Republicans have set their budget target for FY 17 at $7.320 billion or approximately $88 million less than the Senate target.    

     

More specifically related to the judicial branch budget situation, the Governor's proposed budget for the entire Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee is $759.6 million, nearly $17 million above the FY 16 budget.  The Senate Democrats have established a target for our appropriations subcommittee at $757.6 million, or approximately $15 million above current funding. House Republicans, on the other hand, have set their target for the Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee at $738.89 million, or approximately $4 million below funding for the current fiscal year.  So, there is a difference of approximately $19 million between the two targets. The Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee targets include funding for the Department of Corrections, the Department of Public Safety, the Attorney General's Office, and the Public Defender's Office in addition to the Iowa Judicial Branch.  

  

The salaries and benefits of judicial branch personnel compose 96% of our operating budget.  We have made great strides in recent years toward becoming the best court system in the nation.  However, should we experience a significant shortfall in our budget request; it will be very difficult for the judicial branch to meet our six goals as outlined in Chief Justice Cady's state of the judiciary address: 

·         Protecting Iowa's children 

·         Providing full-time access to justice 

·         Operating an efficient, full-service court system 

·         Providing faster and less costly resolution of legal disputes 

·         Remaining open and transparent  

·         Providing fair and impartial justice for all 

  

The next critical date in the process will come on March 16 when the Revenue Estimating Conference is scheduled to meet to project state revenues for the balance of FY 16 and all of FY 17.  We will have a clearer picture of the situation at that time.    

  

In addition to our regular general fund operating budget request, this year the judicial branch also submitted a capital budget request.  This is a request for funding out of the state's infrastructure budget, and is not part of the state's general fund.  Specifically, we are requesting infrastructure funding to cover the state's responsibility for the technology, furniture, fixture and equipment needs of the Polk County Court complex project currently under construction.     

  

In closing, be assured we are doing—and will continue to do—all we can to secure the necessary funding to provide the services Iowans demand and expect from the judicial branch.  I close where I began, with another line borrowed from Yogi Berra:  "It ain't over 'til it's over."              

  

David K. Boyd 

State Court Administrator 

  

  

             

  

            

 

  

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

 

  

  

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