Judiciary

Courts Seek $25 Mil. Over and Above Corbett's Budget

, The Legal Intelligencer

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Justice Ronald Castille
Justice Ronald Castille

While Gov. Tom Corbett has advocated keeping the state judiciary's fiscal year 2014-15 budget flat, the courts are asking for about $25 million more in state funds, according to the Unified Judicial System's proposed budget.

Corbett issued his proposed budget Feb. 4, allocating, for the second year in a row, about $317.4 million to the judicial branch.

On Feb. 10, the Unified Judicial System presented its proposed budget to the state Senate appropriations committee, asking for about $342.5 million in state funding.

Corbett's press secretary, Jay Pagni, said the judiciary is not unique in receiving level funding in the governor's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year and noted that the courts have received increases in funding in recent years.

"This is the proposed budget. We would obviously love to do more, but we had to learn to do more with less," Pagni said.

The courts did receive a bump in state funding from about $298.9 million for the 2011-2012 fiscal year to about $309.3 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The judiciary's budget increased again to about $317.4 million for the current fiscal year.

But Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille said those increases simply rose to meet growing costs and therefore did not provide any type of financial cushion for the courts.

"We've seen increases, but they've only kept up with increases in expenses, especially cost of living," Castille said, adding, "We're really people-driven in our funding, in that 85 percent of our funds go toward salaries and health benefits."

According to Castille, it costs the judiciary about $225,000 in annual salary and benefits to employ a common pleas court judge and about $117,000 in salary and benefits to employ a magisterial district judge.

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