State Budget Director Art Pope wasted no time getting to work after Gov. Pat McCrory was sworn in privately on Jan.5, 2013, reminding all state department and agency heads, in a memo dated Jan.7, that they had until Jan. 11 to submit two percent budget reduction options to his office.
As Governor McCrory begins the 2013-15 budget reparation, these reduction options are needed to initiate the budget preparation process. Agencies that did not submit the requested 2% reductions, must submit them to the Office of State Budget and Management by January 11, 2013. Agencies that wish to review and revise the reductions submitted to this office may submit revised reductions by January 11, 2013.
That’s not good news for the state courts, whose budget has already been “cut to the bone” over the past four years, Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts John Smith said in an interview last week. The system is operating at a stress level higher than any he’s seen during his 30 years of involvement there, and added the following in response to the request for reduction options:
Simply put, the Judicial Branch cannot sustain another budget reduction at this level without sending people home. My highest priority at this time is protecting our workforce against another reduction and the damaging effect such a reduction would have on citizens trying to access justice.
Among the items that Smith ranks as urgent are the reinstatement of at least 28 magistrate positions; restoration of the court employee step pay plan; and approximately two million dollars in funding to cover additional interpreter services, expert witness fees and the costs of the Racial Justice Act.
In addition, Smith said, the courts need to fill approximately 700 to 800 positions — superior court clerks, district court judges, additional magistrates, assistant district attorneys and support staff — in order to meet current workload demand.