Note: Maybe you’ve noticed that we’ve started to post blogs examining different areas of the governor’s budget. Katherine has already written about housing, higher education and workforce development. However, we know that there are people more knowledgeable than us on these issue areas. So, if you think we’ve missed something or gotten something wrong, please post a comment or send us an e-mail. We really want your feedback to inform our future analysis!
Now back to public safety….
The Governor cites as one of his top budget priorities to “protect state public safety programs.” What this translates into is no significant budget cuts to the Dept. of Corrections and Dept. of Public Safety. That’s good news for Office of Justice programs that serve victims of crime and domestic abuse.
The Governor also proposes a nearly $23 million increase for Corrections in FY 2010-11 to cover some significant deficiencies in the agency’s operating budget. Plus, there is another $12.6 million increase in the Dept. of Human Services budget for the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.
What does not fare as well in the Governor’s budget are court-related services. The Governor proposes a 5% reduction to the state’s court systems. Considering the size of the budget deficit, that may not sound unreasonable. Taken in context, however, the reduction would have a significant impact on court services.
For example, the judicial branch estimates that it would need an additional $53 million for the FY 2010-11 biennium just to preserve core functions. Instead, the Governor proposes $25 million in reductions.
One area of need within the Supreme Court is civil legal services, which provides legal assistance to Minnesota’s most vulnerable populations – low-income families, the elderly, disabled and children. Currently, more than 20,000 people who are eligible for services are turned away each year. Civil legal services received $2 million in one-time funding during the FY 2008-09 biennium. Under the Governor’s proposal, this one-time funding would not be renewed, plus civil legal services would likely receive an additional 5% reduction in the base budget – effectively a 12% cut. As a result, funding for these services would fall below FY 2006 levels and an estimated 5,000 additional families would go without needed legal assistance.