Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tough Budget Decisions

Even in the best of times, brokering a deal on the state budget is tough. These, it goes without saying, are not the best of times.

Reeling from weeks of scandal and facing revenue shortfalls, New York officials are scrambling to make a deal on the budget before the April 1st deadline. This morning's New York Times notes that even items with considerable support from lawmakers, like legislative pay raises, are falling by the wayside.

It might seem, then, that Chief Judge Judith Kaye's advocacy of judicial pay raises in today's Times Union is a bit ill-timed. But according to contributors to this NPR piece, there is an argument to be made that the judiciary shouldn't suffer the same pinch as other agencies and programs during an economic downturn. Raising fees, which seems like a reasonable way to compensate for budget shortfalls, is a much more serious prospect in the judicial context because it limits the access to justice New Yorkers expect as a right. Court administrators also argue that court workloads increase during tough economic times (think: subprime foreclosure proceedings).

Certainly food for thought as we consider this year's belt-tightening.

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