A small group of Republican legislators have given initial approval to next year’s spending plan for the state’s court system, prisons and public safety operations. It’s about $3 million leaner than the current year’s budget for those agencies.
Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady had asked for a budget boost for the courts, but is getting what GOP lawmakers call a “status quo” spending plan. Cady acknowledges with state tax revenues falling below expectations, the cuts to the courts could have been deep.
“We’re prepared to go forward and continue to do the best work that we can,” Cady told a Cedar Rapids Gazette reporter after meeting privately with House leaders Wednesday afternoon. “We’re just appreciative that the legislature listened to us in some respects.”
Legislators are in the final stages of drafting an overall spending outline for the state fiscal year that begins July 1st and some of the plans that emerged this week will cut other agencies far more — like a proposed 10 percent cut in the Department of Public Health’s next budget. As chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, Cady is the top executive in the judicial branch of state government. Cady said he and his top aides will try to implement these cuts with the fewest “disruptions” to court services.
“We just don’t know specifically what that is, but we’ll look at everything,” Cady said.
During recent rounds of budget reductions, Cady ordered workers in the court system to take unpaid furloughs and courthouses were closed on Fridays. That may happen again.
“We look at problems as opportunities and we’ll look to make sure there aren’t things we can do in ways that might be able to save money,” Cady said.
But Cady indicated the court system “will still maintain a presence in all 99 counties.”
“That’s important to us, but…just as have this year, we operated on a shortfall and did it successfully and we’re confident we’ll be able to do it again,” Cady said.
Legislators are not at work today in Des Moines. They will return Monday, with the hope of concluding the work of the 2017 legislative session sometime next week.