Yesterday, Governor McCrory announced his recommended budget for the next two years. It is available here. Any governor’s budget is really just the beginning of a conversation with the General Assembly, so the proposals below may or may not end up in the final budget. Nonetheless, it’s worth looking at the recommended budget to identify some of the issues that are likely to be discussed over the next few weeks or months.
A couple of quick disclaimers: I am not an expert at reading budget documents; I am confused by the Justice and Public Safety Line Item Budget, here, which doesn’t seem to incorporate the changes recommended in the main recommended budget, here; and the following list does not include every criminal-justice-related proposal in the recommended budget. So I encourage everyone to take a look at all the released budget documents for a complete picture. Having said that, here are some of the major components of the Governor’s proposal:
- Cuts to the court system. The Governor would cut $3.5 million from the court system through a “voluntary reduction in force,” would eliminate a $671,000 pass-through appropriation to the State Bar, and would eliminate all funding for the Conference of District Attorneys and the Clerk’s Conference.
- Additions to the court system. The Governor would appropriate $3.4 million to create drug treatment courts, add $1 million to pay for interpreters, experts, and juror fees, and spend about $727,000 to add 16 magistrate positions in counties that have only three magistrates each.
- Cuts to indigent defense. The Governor recommends cutting $259,000 from the public defender system by “[e]fficiencies gained through increased partnership with the School of Government for training” and other means, and cutting $231,000 from Prisoner Legal Services “to reflect the declining number of inmates” in prison.
- Additions to indigent defense. The Governor would make a one-time $5 million appropriation to pay court-appointed attorneys’ fees, and would spend several hundred thousand dollars to “update and maintain the case management system used by public defenders.”
- Attorney General. The Governor would move 210 attorneys and support staff who provide service to state agencies out from under the Attorney General and into the agencies with which they work. The News and Observer discusses this proposal here; apparently, the positions in question were part of the various agencies until 20 years ago, when they were collected under the Attorney General. The Governor also proposes to cut almost $1 million annually by reducing vacant positions within the AG’s office.
- SBI labs. The Governor recommends spending several million dollars to “add positions, lab space, and equipment” to allow the Western and Triad labs to do DNA and toxicology analysis, and proposes a one-time allocation of $573,000 to “replace and modernize equipment in the State Crime Lab.”
- Corrections. The Governor recommends closing Wayne, Bladen, Duplin, and Robeson prisons, and Western Youth Institution, saving $20 million, in light of a declining number of inmates. He also proposes hiring hundreds of new probation officers to bring caseloads down, as well as expanding the use of GPS monitoring of supervisees.
The budget also targets the UNC system for substantial cuts. In most instances, the university system would have some flexibility about where to cut, so it is not clear what effect the cuts would have on the School of Government or any other specific part of the university.