Lippman was quick to credit Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti (See Profile), the prime architect of the Judiciary budget who will now defend it before the Legislature at a hearing slated for Feb. 6.
"Judge Prudenti has done a terrific job of modernizing the Judiciary…that watches the public fisc but recognizes above all our mission and mandate to foster equal justice," Lippman said. "She has been able to do it all."
Prudenti said the Judiciary budget has built-in efficiencies designed to ensure that "the trial courts are given the resources they need." She said that will entail significant changes in the way the OCA operates.
"No longer can the Office of Court Administration operate the way it has operated in the past," Prudenti said. "We are going to have to redeploy some of our troops to the trial courts. We are going to have to combine certain departments, downsize the Office of Court Administration, make sure e-filing and our infrastructure is constantly monitored and upgraded, and strike the delicate balance this budget tries to accomplish."
The Judiciary's budget totals $1.97 billion, excluding the cost of employee benefits (and $2.6 billion with those expenses factored in). It would grow by about 3.9 percent under the proposal before the Legislature, but the state-funded operational portion, the part that is of most concern to the governor and Legislature, would decrease .012 percent.
Under the plan, aid for civil legal services would increase by $15 million, $10.9 million would be allocated to implement indigent criminal defense caseload caps and $8.2 million would be committed to the second phase of judicial pay raises, a 4.3 percent increase that would take effect April 1.
There are no new capital projects in the budget, although $51 million from the 2007-08 budget would be re-appropriated for a court officer training academy in Brooklyn. State operational expenses would drop by $212,013.
Overall, the executive budget presented by Cuomo yesterday totals $136.5 billion, an increase of 1.9 percent, but with no increase in taxes or fees.
Legislation submitted with the budget would:
Increase the minimum wage to $8.75 from $7.25 per hour.