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Where there’s a will, there’s a way when it comes to the state budget

Posted By Cedric Johnson On June 19, 2014 @ 3:23 pm In NC Budget and Tax Center | Comments Disabled

Gov. McCrory’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 and respective budgets by the House and Senate include significant cost savings from closing and downsizing various correctional facilities. Savings from these changes total around $14.2 million in both the House and Senate budgets and $14.9 million in the Governor’s budget.

Savings generated from these changes could have been used to promote safer communities across the state.  However, lawmakers went down a different path. For instance, Gov. McCrory advocated for state funding for drug treatment courts [1] to be included in the state’s current fiscal year budget. These courts cost a fraction of the nearly $28,000 it cost to keep individuals in prison. However, the final budget passed last year by state policymakers did not include funding for drug treatment courts.

All three budget proposals for fiscal year 2015 – which begin July 1, 2014 – fail to include funding for drug treatment courts. The House and Senate budgets, however, go further and cut funding for programs that promote fair and equitable access to the justice system and safe communities across the state.

Funding cuts to Justice and Public Safety in the House and Senate budgets include:

  • Elimination of the Access to Civil Justice Fund, which supports the representation of poor North Carolinians in civil cases.
  • Reduction of administration funding for Indigent Defense Services, which in part oversees the provision of legal representation to indigent defendants and others entitled to counsel under North Carolina law.
  • Reduction of administration funding for Administration of the Courts

Due to tax changes enacted last year, state policymakers are constrained in major ways. This is effectively a self-imposed budget challenge. Nevertheless, as demonstrated with choices made within the Justice and Public Safety area of the budget, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Budget writers found revenue by making significant changes to the operations of various correctional facilities as well as by cutting state funding for programs that work to enhance the efficacy of the state’s justice system. These state funding cuts would limit service providers’ ability to assist individuals and families in need to legal representation [2].

What is clear from all three budgets is that state lawmakers are continuing down a dangerous path of more state funding cuts rather than reinvestment as the state recovers from the Great Recession. One can only hope that as budget writers work to negotiate a final budget for the upcoming 2015 fiscal year, state funding is restored for these programs that were put on the chopping block in the House and Senate budgets.

Article printed from The Progressive Pulse: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org

URL to article: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/06/19/where-theres-a-will-theres-a-way-when-it-comes-to-the-state-budget/

URLs in this post:

[1] Gov. McCrory advocated for state funding for drug treatment courts: http://charlotte.twcnews.com/content/news/689710/mccrory-urges-legislators-to-reinstate-funding-for-drug-courts/

[2] state funding cuts would limit service providers’ ability to assist individuals and families in need to legal representation: http://m.indyweek.com/triangulator/archives/2014/06/12/senate-and-house-budgets-slash-legal-aid-for-poorest-citizens

[3] No consensus among Governor, Senate and House on basic budget estimates : http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/06/17/60887/

[4] Court budget cuts still hanging in the balance : http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/07/21/court-budget-cuts-still-hanging-in-the-balance/

[5] Final budget puts North Carolina on fiscally irresponsible path as state falls further behind : http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/08/07/final-budget-puts-north-carolina-on-fiscally-irresponsible-path-as-state-falls-further-behind/

[6] Follow the money: House leadership takes a different path than Senate and Governor when it comes to paying for its budget : http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2014/06/11/follow-the-money-house-leadership-takes-a-different-path-than-senate-and-governor-when-it-comes-to-paying-for-its-budget/

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