May 29, 2013 - The State Bar of Wisconsin is expressing concern regarding the Joint Finance Committee’s decision to allow the Wisconsin Court System to face a staggering funding lapse of nearly $12 million.
In his proposed budget, Gov. Walker recommended a $17 million lapse, which was carried over from the 2011-13 budget. Prior to today’s executive session, the Wisconsin Supreme Court had stated that the lapse represented the largest cut ever to the court system’s budget, and would affect its county financial partners, the services it provides online, and the services it provides to courthouses throughout the state.
Andrea Gage is public relations coordinator with the State Bar of Wisconsin. She can be reached at org agage wisbar wisbar agage org, or by phone at (608) 250-6025.
In today’s motion, committee members voted largely along party lines to reduce that lapse by roughly $5.2 million, leaving the court facing a remaining $11.8 million funding gap.
“Adequate funding is of critical importance to provide a system of justice which is fairly administered and impartial to all people,” said State Bar of Wisconsin President Kevin Klein. “Wisconsin Courts have constitutional functions and obligations that require funding at a level sufficient to meet those responsibilities.”
During today’s executive session, State Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) expressed concern that the funding needs of a co-equal branch of government were not being properly acknowledged by the committee.
“We’re treating the courts as though they are another state agency, and they’re not—they are another branch of government and they require funding to operate,” said Rep. Mason.
“As an independent branch of government, the court system’s responsibilities are great, but our budget is less than 1 percent of all state general fund spending,” said Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson. “It is disappointing that the Joint Committee on Finance voted to only partially address the double-cut applied to the court system as outlined by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. I hope the full Legislature will appreciate the detrimental effects the committee’s action will have on people and businesses that rely on courts in local communities throughout the state.”
Joint Finance Co-chair John Nygren (R-Marinette) referred to today’s move as “appropriate.”
The full Legislature is expected to take up the budget proposal in June, once the Joint Finance Committee concludes its work.