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Courts get slight boost in Brown's revised budget

California's trial courts received a bit of good news Tuesday as Gov. Jerry Brown proposed increasing their funding augmentation from $100 million to $160 million in his revised state budget.

The proposed increase is part of a two-year strategy to stabilize trial court funding.

"I think what this May revise indicates is that the governor recognizes that it's important to provide additional funding to the courts," said Richard Huver, president-elect of the San Diego County Bar Association and co-chair of its court funding action committee.

"It's the beginning of a process of reinvestment in our courts, and it's an encouraging first step in that process, which will be ongoing."

The latest budget proposes $42.8 million to help cover increased employee benefit costs, including retirement, health care and retiree health care.

The May revision also proposes $86.3 million to meet court workload obligations -- an amount equal to 5 percent of the trial court support appropriation. The administration intends to propose an additional 5 percent increase for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Additionally, Gov. Brown's proposal allows the state to provide money from the general fund to cover a projected shortfall in the collection of fee revenues. The Department of Finance estimates this revenue shortfall could be as much as $30.9 million.

State Bar of California President Luis J. Rodriguez praised Gov. Brown for boosting state court funding even more than previously promised, and for two years.

"With this latest funding proposal for the courts, Gov. Brown has shown that he is committed to access to justice,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “We are also deeply committed to the chief justice’s ongoing efforts to increase access to justice, as she continues her efforts to find more efficient ways to deliver justice to California’s population.”

While the latest budget is an improvement, Huver said the local San Diego County contingent will keep pressing for increased funding to help the courts recover from the $1.2 billion it had cut since 2007.

"We will continue to remind [legislators] of the importance of a fully funded judicial branch, the important role the courts play in society, and how underfunding the courts negatively impacts businesses and the citizens they serve," he said.

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