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Republican Senate Budget: Devastating for Washington’s Courts

The Republican Senate Budget makes devastating cuts from Washington's Judicial Department.

 

ASK ANY REPUBLICAN state senator this hypothetical question, If the foundation to your family’s home were crumbling, would you pay to fix it?, and I am certain nearly each person polled would answer, yes.

But ask a Republican state senator this real-life question, If Washington State’s judiciary badly needed funding to continue its proper functioning, would you allot sufficient funds from the state’s treasury to fix it?, and the consensus would be stubbornly, no!

Our judiciary is suffering and needs crucial funding. While the Democrats’ 2013-2015 Biennial Budget passed through the state’s House of Representatives fails to entirely cure our courts’ pain, the Republican’s Budget passed in the Senate offers no relief. In fact, it's bad medicine.

There are several judicial departments that requested funding from our Legislature. The Administrative Office of the Courts is a department created in 1957 by the Legislature, which operates under the direction of the state’s Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The office provides basic operating support to our judiciary and facilitates the public’s access to our courts. To keep our courts open and running, the office requested from the Legislature $21,251,000.

Not accounting for diverted funds, the Democrats’ budget provides a meager $6,200,000 to the office. The Republicans’ Budget, however, reduces the office’s overall budget by $1,629,000. Assuming the initial funds requested are required for its operation, the Republicans’ Budget would force the office to provide essential court services, both to the judicial department and the public, with $22,880,000 less than what is needed.

The Supreme Court, in addition, requested a meager $50,000 to help ease the burden of meeting its most basic operating expenses including telecommunication costs, printing and copying costs, and staff training, among other things. The House’s Budget allocates no additional funds to satisfy the Supreme Court’s request. By contrast, not only do the Republicans ignore the Supreme Court’s appeal entirely, their Budget actually cuts the Court’s funding by more than a half million dollars, $514,000 to be exact.

For the Court of Appeals – the intermediate appellate level between the trial courts and the state Supreme Court – the Republicans’ Budget is worse. In 2007, the US Marshal’s office surveyed the Division III appellate court building in Spokane. After its onsite inspection, the US Marshal concluded security improvements were needed.

To comply with the US Marshal’s recommendation, the appellate court requested $104,000 for security improvements. The Democrats’ Budget helps improve court safety and supplies those funds. By stark contrast, the Republican Budget reduces the Court of Appeals’ operating expenses by $1,139,000, which is more than 10 times the amount of funding requested.

From the state’s law library, which requested no additional funds, the Republican’s took $148,000 that would have otherwise been used to satisfy organizational expenses.

Perhaps most drastic is the Republicans’ treatment of Washington’s Office of Civil Legal Aid (a department created by law that passed with Democrat and Republican support). Without counsel, a party’s legal rights are often greatly disadvantaged. But there is no constitutional guarantee that a party be afforded legal counsel during all civil matters (as apposed to a criminal prosecution). Washington’s Office of Civil Legal Aid, created by state statute, is an independent judicial agency, which helps supply civil legal representation to people in Washington. The office, for example, expands legal help to those facing home foreclosure.

Toward that end, the department requested $2,337,000 to help replace prior federal and state budget reductions. The Democrats’ Budget denied the increase. But the Republicans went a step further: their Budget axes $3,002,000 from the department.

Republicans are quick to adopt the lofty, unrealistic position that our state’s financial affairs should be treated like a household’s checkbook. It's not unfair, therefore, to expect Republicans to address problems with our state’s judiciary – a bedrock institution necessary to the fair and proper functioning of our society – as they would their own homes’ foundation.

And yet, as shown by their 2013-2015 Biennial Senate Budget, the state Republicans’ fiscal dogma, which is so readily touted in the imaginary, is overlooked in actual practice. The Republicans’ Budget does not do our state justice.

_______

Trent Latta is an attorney licensed in both Washington and California. He can be contacted at TrentLatta@gmail.com. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lynn B April 23, 2013 at 05:36 PM
Hmmmm, I might be led to believe that you are anti-Republican!
Joe M April 23, 2013 at 05:56 PM
I realize that those of us who prefer to drink from the fountain of civil disagreement are vastly outnumbered here by those who don't even know what "ad hominem" means. If I didn't accept the futility of saying that, I wouldn't be here. It's only my belief in Karma that keeps me going.
Edwin April 23, 2013 at 08:49 PM
How do you figure that. I am looking for Trent to provide a dialog on the budget. The Senate, with R majority thanks to 2 Democrat Senators who see the need for fiscal restraint, have done a great job showing us a budget without tax increases. Although it is not perfect it is a great starting point to discuss what is not included and prioritize spending. In the end there may be good reason to pay more in taxes but the Democrat dominated house just keeps on wanting more. So I am not antit-Republican, just open to try to see the other side. I fully 100% oppose the beer tax period. It is the Dems who want this. Let see if Trent can propose where the money for the Courts should come from. More taxes or trade off somewhere else.
Lynn B April 23, 2013 at 10:41 PM
Edwin, this was just a comment directed at the author who I understand to be the Chairman of the local Democratic Party ( http://wa-demchairs.org/kcdems/districts/officers.php?ld=45 ). With such qualification and distinction, why isn't Trent forthright with the readers so that they understand his underlying bias. This is typical of the pot calling kettle black. Trent appears as caring Joe Blow citizen submitting astro-turf criticism of the Republican plans instead of investing his time in working with political foes across the aisle. Ever heard of the old adage, you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar? Trent is doing the very thing that he professes the Republicans do!
Lynn B April 23, 2013 at 11:02 PM
Trent, have you thought about truth in media? If so, here is a suggested change to the tagline for future articles: "Trent Latta is an attorney licensed in both Washington and California; as well as, the current 45th District Chairman for the Democratic Party. He can be contacted at TrentLatta@gmail.com."
Trent Latta April 23, 2013 at 11:20 PM
Lynn B, What statement did I make that was not true? And before you throw stones, perhaps you should lift the veil of secrecy of which you make happy use, Ms. B. Trent Latta TrentLatta@gmail.com
Ken James April 23, 2013 at 11:56 PM
I guess we could start with " ...the Republicans’ Budget would force the office to provide essential court services, both to the judicial department and the public, with $22,880,000 less than what is needed."
Lynn B April 24, 2013 at 12:20 AM
Trent, I think we know that your truths are really your opinion supported by select observations and other Democratic National Party innuendo--lies no, half-truths maybe. Furthermore, I don't believe that either the Republicans or Democrats have the corner marketed for the TRUTH....they are both in a perpetual bar fight while trying to convince the bystanders to believe that that they are the innocent one and the other the ogre. It is deceiving to the bystanders (patch readers) to not brand your intentions as opinions of the Democratic National Party Chairman, 45th Leg District. You have skin in the game and disclosure is fair.
Ken James April 24, 2013 at 02:41 AM
Lynn B. Previously we made a suggestion to Patch editors that Trent should disclose his professional and political affiliation in his byline so that readers would understand that these are not "community oriented" comments, but more akin to advertising for his causes. Patch replied that they would suggest that to Trent since most other writers who have a "conflict of interest" do disclose that information. After Trent published another advertisement without the suggested byline, I asked Patch again about this. This time they mentioned that it was only a suggestion to Trent and that they did not have an obligation to force him to self disclose in a byline. I believe there was also a bit of chastising my position with a comment that they didn't understand my characterization of him as a "political operative". So, in this article, as in his previous, he writes his opinion as if it were factual, and demeans the Republican position without offering their rationale. A person who was attempting to educate or enlighten... or even honestly debate an issue, would have the intellectual honesty to explain what each side contends and THEN offer his opinion. The fact that he does NOT do this is prima fascia proof that he is merely shilling for his political and lawyerly pursuits.
Ken James April 24, 2013 at 05:07 AM
My comment was in response to Trent's question: "What statement did I make that was not true?" Wait, here's another: "But ask a Republican state senator this real-life question, If Washington State’s judiciary badly needed funding to continue its proper functioning, would you allot sufficient funds from the state’s treasury to fix it?, and the consensus would be stubbornly, no!" And another: "From the state’s law library, which requested no additional funds, the Republican’s took $148,000..." I could go on all night.
Edward A. April 24, 2013 at 06:24 AM
Generally comments get culled for using R-rated language. Ad hominem is fine if it doesn't contain the "f-word." Literacy is optional.
Edwin April 24, 2013 at 01:37 PM
I still am waiting to have an intelligent dialog with Trent or Ken on what portions of the Senate's plan needs change and where will the State get the money. Once again I have to credit Tom and Shelton for caucusing with the R's otherwise we have unrestrained taxation coming our way. If no department has no fat than why is the Governor talking lean management?
Ken James April 24, 2013 at 02:56 PM
I didn't see any invitation to dialog with you about the issues you listed. I don't think you want to hear my mundane point of view. I generally believe in the method that Trent dismisses as too parochial which he described as: "Republicans are quick to adopt the lofty, unrealistic position that our state’s financial affairs should be treated like a household’s checkbook." Yep, that's exactly how I think our affairs should be treated. You spend only that which you can afford. If you need more money for more projects, then you must find ways to grow the state economy so that there is more revenue available. You don't continue to raise taxes since that will stifle the economy and encourage the most productive to leave the state for an environment that lets them retain more of what they earned.
Kirkland Tony April 25, 2013 at 07:41 PM
Trent, I don't recall each of those individual spending propositions being put up for independent votes, along with breakroom food, remodeling expenses, etc. Simply put, you seem to be lying that the Republicans made any of these choices. Using a page from Obama's Sequester playbook - where he insisted the FAA furlough controllers rather than cut back on consultants and boondoggle trips - you and your party seem to be insisting that anything other than a blank check means that the most important stuff was refused. Using your house analogy, if the roof was leaking and we wanted a new color carpet for the living room, it would be immature to buy the floor and gripe that the roof was leaking. And yet that's what you are doing.
Lynn B April 25, 2013 at 11:03 PM
Tony, great comment and analogy. I have seen this strategy in motion so many times. I think the next anticipated move after upsetting and inconveniencing so many people is an offer for a solution via a special tax or earmarked appropriation that we all agree on. In that way the Democrats hold necessary and widely regarded operations hostage to assure support for their taxing actions without ever jeopardizing a questionable pet project.
Joe M April 25, 2013 at 11:49 PM
Tony, I wasn't aware there were $370 million in consultants and "boondoggle" trips under the FAA operating budget. This doesn't sound possible. Is this documented somewhere online?
Kirkland Tony April 26, 2013 at 01:49 AM
Joe, the same place all those other individual veto-able line items Trent mentioned were. I'm not understanding your question: Did you not pay attention to him, or are you trolling?
Joe M April 26, 2013 at 01:54 AM
I wasn't asking about anything Trent said. I was asking about your claims regarding the FAA furloughs. Since I posted my comment, the U.S. Senate indicated they disagreed with you. They unanimously passed a bill allowing the FAA to use non-operating budget money to avoid furloughs. Contrary to what you think, the FAA had no legal way to avoid furloughs without this bill. Nice try blaming Obama, though.
Kirkland Tony April 26, 2013 at 02:02 AM
Joe, that's a complete lie and mischaracterization of what the U.S. Senate said. They pretty much completely disagreed with you... and Trent... and codified that the FAA and Obama lied. Now they have removed their wriggle room. Since you apparently saw the news but were unable to comprehend it, allow me to provide you a primer. The Senate had said all along that the FAA had plenty of money and the power to shuffle it around. The Administation (that's the President for those of you apparently not versed in government) had argued that, despite the lack of any rules preventing it, they (the Administration) wouldn't allow this shuffling. The Senate has overridden the Administration and explicitly enforced that power. And, more to the point, WITHOUT ADDING ANY MONEY. Don't you wish you hadn't brought this up? :)
Joe M April 26, 2013 at 02:41 AM
You've got your facts wrong. Here's the law that preventing moving fund into the FAA operating budget: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/2/900 And here's an article about what the senate just passed: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-04-25/senate-passes-last-ditch-bill-to-end-u-dot-s-dot-controller-furloughs In that article about the just-passed bill, it says: "It would let the Federal Aviation Administration move as much as $253 million within its budget to end furloughs." That's in complete contrast to your statements, and completely supports what I said. Like you, I'm glad they were able to do it by moving funds from non-operating FAA budgets. Do you have a credible reference that disagrees?
Kirkland Tony April 26, 2013 at 02:59 AM
Joe, did you even read that before you referenced it? It doesn't support your position at all! The Business Week article supports what both the Senate and I, but neither you, Trent nor Obama have been saying. What's your "credible reference"? p.s. MSNBC is NOT a credible reference.
Joe M April 26, 2013 at 03:49 AM
You keep talking about what "Trent ... has been saying". What has he said about the FAA? Nothing in this article or the comments. I have been talking only about the FAA. You said: "The Senate had said all along that the FAA had plenty of money and the power to shuffle it around." That statement contains a truth and a lie. Yes, the FAA has had the money, but not in the operating budget. They have not had the power to shuffle it around. That is what the Business Week article (and the quote I extracted says.) And then you added "What's your 'credible reference'? p.s. MSNBC is NOT a credible reference." I provided two credible references (Business Week and Cornell). I have never (in this article or anywhere else) used MSNBC as a reference. You sir, are just making stuff up. And you had the gall to ask if I was trolling. Responding to you is getting very tedious. So far you have not provided any references to support anything you've said. I sense we are pretty much done.
Ken James April 26, 2013 at 08:06 AM
Isn't it clear that politically there is a desire by some to make the budget cuts as painful as possible? We know that the left/right debate is about budget cuts vs. tax hikes so obviously those who are in favor of the tax hikes will try to make budget cuts look like the wrong choice. I was responsible for a fairly large department at a fortune 100 company for several years. Twice in my tenure we were faced with a 10% across the board budget cut; once when profits were lower than projected and once when we were staging for a merger. Sure, it was difficult, but a challenge like many others that you face in business; in fact there is an opportunity with such a task. You fine tune your operation to become more efficient, you evaluate your personnel and dismiss those who are less productive, you reorganize to reflect the leaner organization, etc, etc. You do everything possible so that it does not harm the core business because you still need to grow and generate profit... or you will be replaced with someone who has more imagination and better leadership skills. Everyone knows that this country is being suffocated by a gigantic and growing debt. Regardless of whose idea the sequester was or who could have prevented it, the types and magnitudes of the cuts are probably inevitable... all areas will need to be cut by at least the amounts dictated by the sequester... with OR without tax hikes. (Continued...)
Ken James April 26, 2013 at 08:20 AM
When I heard the President give a speech listing all of the severe impacts of the sequester, two things occurred to me: 1)Instead of using it as a political hammer, he should use it as a rallying point to get the American people behind the program to reign in our out-of-control finances 2)It was clear that he would use the budget cuts to inflict pain on the American people and blame the opposition. Several federal government employees, in 'whistleblower' fashion, have come forward to say that they were instructed to avoid lessening the impact of the budget cuts. High profile, low cost, programs were cut such as the White House tours. Leadership has been replaced with gamesmanship.
Kirkland Tony April 26, 2013 at 12:10 PM
Joe, your 'references' don't seem to agree with you. In the FAA case, they in fact showed discretion; they cut controller expenditures 10% even though the sequester was a 4% hit, and left many other programs untouched. The reason I am focusing on what Trent said is... that's the point of the thread. He claimed choices were provided to the Republicans that weren't in this State, and it's a standard left-wing way of talking... you give me everything I'm asking for, or I'll use what you do give me on the luxuries and then squeal that you've denied me the basics.
Kirkland Tony April 26, 2013 at 12:31 PM
Joe, I've been reading some leftist sites to try to better understand your perspective. Even THEY largely agree the FAA furloughs were politics... and they're pissed that the Dems agreed to remove the justification used. Their reasoning? The sequester is (according to the left) causing pain to everyone else, so the elite business class should suffer too. Not that there's any economic or legal reason for this to be unavoidable, just that, in the left's eyes, it is fair and correct and moral. From where I sit, generally right on center, I think the left ALWAYS believes the elite business class needs to both pay and suffer more. Cuts or no cuts, as long as there is a cap on taxes and there is any income inequality, they'll make a case for imposing avoidable suffering. E.g. the pay I get for having worked and studied hard in a science rather than partied through school and coming out with a degree in comparative gender studies... to the left, I should be taxed down to the same income as a crack-addled welfare recipient because inequality of outcome is proof of unfairness. If that's the purpose of the furloughs, be honest about it up front and you'll have a more defensible position. It's still a losing position unless non-core services have first been stripped. But at least it's honest.
Kirkland Tony April 26, 2013 at 12:42 PM
Joe, how do you respond to this when you claim the FAA had to furlough... "The FAA should be able to manage with less. Its operations budget has doubled since 1996. The agency got along just fine in 2007, even though it had fewer controllers than today and less money, while handling more air traffic. Even with sequestration, the FAA overall has slightly more funding than under President Obama’s 2013 budget request." That last sentence seems pretty relevant. No?
Joe M April 26, 2013 at 01:12 PM
When you said "Joe, I've been reading some leftist sites to try to better understand your perspective. ", I lost what little interest I had in continuing this discussion with you. You want to frame this as part of a grand war between left and right. I have no interest in siding with either, except on individual issues. As for Trent Latta, I don't find him or this article to be very interesting. Like you, he seems to want to frame this as a left vs right battle. Neither he nor any of his critics have given me any information that would help me know what a reasonable level of spending for the courts would be. Meh.
Kirkland Tony April 27, 2013 at 12:53 AM
Joe, you do realize we can easily read your past posts ON EVERY THREAD, don't you? It takes no time at all to see that you are left of center and aggressive at times about it. I didn't check bother prior to your latest message because I foolishly took you at face value - I assumed you were honest in your defense of the duplicitous words of Trent and actions of the Administration. But your history on guns (though you're near middle) and on whether a private organization (the Boy Scouts) should be forced to accept volunteers who violate their interpretation of their own oath, for examples, belie your claims. Joe, when I drive a car, I do not kill children. (Your example - see, I did read your history.) Maybe you do, and have some responsibility to accept. I don't believe that you are responsible for my actions, but I believe you should be held as hard as hell accountable for yours. In this case, the Democrats (and, wrt FAA, Obama) made the calls and should be accountable. One other thing... from reading your history, I see you are incredibly verbose; about seven messages a day average. And probably a retired former pilot former computer programmer. I still have a job (and background bizarrely similar to what it sounds like yours is.) You don't win or make your point by wearing us down with your irrelevant cites and copious posting. You just make yourself feel good.
Joe M April 27, 2013 at 02:06 AM
I'm glad to hear you enjoyed reading my past posts. For someone who complains about "irrelevant cites and copious posting" you sure wandered way off topic. (Speaking of which, we're tied 8-8 on comments for this article - one more and you win:-) For what it's worth, I have never belonged to any political party and have plenty of agreement and disagreement with the core principles of each (Republican, Democrat, Libertarian and Green). So call me what you want. I look at each issue on its own merits, and not in terms of any kind of ideology. I'm not going to try to go point by point with all the ways you've misrepresented me, but I will add a comment about the Boy Scouts. I never advocated that they be forced to do anything. I respect them and the fact that they are a private religious organization. My opinions were about what I think they should do, and what I believe they will eventually do, however long it takes. If you could find a way to be a bit less confrontational, you might find we have more in common than our technical backgrounds. Cheers - have a great weekend.

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