By Daniel Wiessner
ALBANY, N.Y., Jan 22 (Reuters) - New York Governor Andrew
Cuomo on Tuesday backed state court administrators' $1.75
billion spending plan in his $136.4 billion executive budget.
Cuomo submitted the budget to state lawmakers, who have
until April 1 to adopt a final version.
Speaking at his annual budget address in Albany, Cuomo
praised Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman for holding the judiciary's
spending flat for the second consecutive year.
"It puts the state in a much better financial situation," he
The governor's remarks came as he unveiled a $136.4 billion
spending plan aimed at closing a $1.3 billion budget gap, mainly
by streamlining government operations and reforming the workers'
This figure excluded more than $6 billion in federal funding
for Superstorm Sandy relief and to implement the 2010 Affordable
The proposed court budget would decrease the Office of Court
Administration's spending by $200,000, or 0.012 percent, from
the current fiscal year.
In spite of the overall reduction, the plan calls for a 60
percent increase in funding for civil legal service programs, to
Lippman has made the provision of civil legal services for
the poor a top priority. Last year, he successfully pushed
lawmakers to double funding for the programs to $25 million.
"We submitted a fiscally prudent budget, and we are very
pleased that it remains intact," OCA spokesman David Bookstaver
said on Tuesday.
Cuomo's proposal includes a 4.3 percent salary increase for
state judges, which would take effect April 1. Last year, judges
received 17 percent raises after a panel created by the
legislature recommended a 27 percent pay hike over three years.
State Supreme Court justices earned $136,700 in 2011, which is
set to rise to $174,000 in 2014.
According to the budget's executive summary, which was
released in November, court administrators were able to present
a flat budget, despite increases in some areas, by saving money
through automation of court operations and the expansion of
Courts also have also scaled back hours and not filled
positions created when employees retire. The court system's
current staffing level of nearly 14,800 non-judicial employees
is the lowest it has been in at least a decade, according to the
OCA, despite a steady increase in workload.
"Any further reduction (in funding) would seriously
jeopardize the ability of the courts to fulfill their core
mission," the budget summary reads.
The New York City and State Bar Associations have called on
state lawmakers to approve the OCA's proposals ahead of the
April 1 budget deadline.
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