Sen. Crist's 'boogers' budget
Tampa Sen. Victor Crist this afternoon unveiled a criminal and civil justice budget for the coming budget year that includes $50 million in proposed cuts to the Department of Corrections and roughly $32 million less in general revenue for the Department of Juvenile Justice. And in a move he knows will distress court clerks, their budget would drop by 10 percent because, Sen. Crist said, they have not so far been cut as dramatically in recent years as other areas.
He said the proposed cuts are a "strategic" start that reflects his committee's priorities: ensuring access to the courts and justice services, and avoiding early prison release.
The Republican lawmaker also assured the audience of lobbyists and law enforcement and court representatives that in the week ahead, "new ideas" will be discussed to help alleviate the clerks of court and corrections.
"We know there are some real boogers in here," he said. "But we aren't done. We have some ideas to generate revenue."
Sen. Crist said chamber leadership advised him and other committee chairs to develop proposals for 8 percent in cuts, but he anticipates new and higher court fees will "get us down to about 2 percent." Ideas include a sliding fee scale for civil cases.
Sen. Crist's proposal spares any current employees from layoffs. And the state attorneys and public defenders are spared as well. Then again, the more than $3 billion state budget deficit could force another 8 percent in cuts, for a total of 16 percent, Sen. Crist said.
"None of us sitting here wants to have to do this," he said.
Shannon Colavecchio, Times Staff Writer