Governor recommends level funding for courts in 2013 budget

Issue March 2012 By Lee Ann Constantine

In late January, Gov. Deval L. Patrick led his budget recommendations for fiscal 2013. Recognizing the tremendous cuts already endured by the court system, Patrick recommends level funding for the courts and grants transferability among Trial Court accounts.

Further, Patrick recommends removing the Probation Department from the auspices of the court and seeks to place it with parole under the Executive Office of Public Safety.

Additionally, in a repeat of his stance last year on restructuring the Committee for Public Counsel Services, Patrick proposes to further expand the use of public attorneys instead of state contracting with private counsel. Additionally, he recommends enhanced efforts on indigency verification.

Also, Patrick allocates $12 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, a $1.5 million bump from fiscal 2012 funding levels.

The budget he led marks the beginning of a long and arduous process. In April, the House is expected to debate and pass its version of the budget. The Senate will follow suit in May with its version. The branches will each appoint three members to a conference committee, which is charged with hashing out the differences between the bills.

The compromise bill is then voted upon by both branches with an up or down vote, usually in June, and sent to the governor for his approval, after which he has 10 days to sign the budget. Fiscal 2013 begins July 1.