Sacramento State Capitol building on Capitol Way. Photo: Jason Doiy/The Recorder

Four days into his administration, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday revealed his first budget proposal for the state—a $209 billion spending plan that includes an additional $327 million for the judiciary.

The budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 reflects Newsom’s progressive political policies and the state’s healthy fiscal situation, which the governor’s office said includes a $21.4 billion surplus. The document proposes significant new spending on education, housing and homelessness, and expanded access to Medi-Cal.

“I know it’s rote and cliche for me to say it’s a reflection of our values, but it is a reflection of our values,” Newsom told a standing-room only crowd of reporters, lawmakers and staffers in Sacramento. “It is demonstrable that these dollars attach to real people and real people’s lives.”

Newsom’s proposal continues the type of incremental funding increases for the judicial branch enacted by former Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature in recent years. The judiciary’s overall $4.1 billion budget includes more money for technology projects, such as digitizing paper archives, a boost in spending for increased employee health and retirement costs and $9.5 million for pay hikes for appellate court and Judicial Council workers.

The budget would also add $40 million for deferred maintenance in court buildings, $20 million for court-appointed dependency counsel and $13.9 million to handle the cases of those seeking to have prior marijuana-related convictions sealed or dismissed. The state would also give the Judicial Council $75 million to create pretrial decision-making pilot projects in eight to 10 courts.

Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice of California at the Press Club building in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13, 2018. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi / ALM

In a prepared statement, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said the proposal would “help maintain momentum on branch initiatives and innovations.”

“His proposal reflects a shared commitment to modernization, transparency, and customer service,” Cantil-Sakauye said.

Newsom’s budget does not include money for the 10 new judgeships and one new appellate court justice sought by the Judicial Council. That issue will likely play out in the Legislature, where Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, has introduced a bill to add six new judgeships.

In other budget news, the governor estimates the state’s cannabis excise tax will generate $355 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, a figure that’s lower than the $410 million projected by the Legislative Analyst’s Office. Newsom said the smaller projections are not cause for alarm and that he has faith the legal market will flourish in the long-term. He also expressed support for the Bureau of Cannabis Control and its chief, Lori Ajax.

“They’re doing something at scale that no state has ever done,” Newsom said.

The governor will produce revised budget figures in May. He and the Legislature have until June 15 to ratify a spending plan.


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