Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday signed the Judiciary budget, leaving completely intact the spending plan proposed by the Office of Court Administration and approved by the Legislature.
While Cuomo did use his line-item veto power to eliminate several items in other budgets—mostly for technical reasons such as appropriations that duplicated other appropriations—he did not touch the Judiciary budget. The $1.81 billion fiscal 2014-15 budget is the first in five years to include an increase.
Cuomo had initially suggested that the 2.5 percent increase was out of line with the 2 percent cap he had imposed on executive agencies. But supporters, including key legislators, noted that the Judiciary had endured unusual cutbacks in recent years while absorbing new expenses.
The Judiciary budget includes funding for 20 new Family Court judges next year, but the positions have yet to be created by the Legislature. It also includes an additional $15 million for civil legal services; $17 million for the final phase of statutorily required indigent defense standards; $17.5 million for mandatory raises for non-judicial employees; $8.4 million for the third phase of a judicial pay hike; and funding to maintain current staffing levels, fill several critical posts and ensure that the courtrooms remain open until 5 p.m. each workday.
In an interview, Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti said she is gratified by the support the Judiciary received from the governor, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, and Senate leaders Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Center, and Jeffrey Klein, D-Bronx.
“Like the rest of the state, the Judiciary has faced significant challenges in recent years,” Prudenti said. “This budget will allow us to restore court operations to a level that the public deserves, ensuring the court system’s ability to carry out its vital mission.”