The Governor’s Budget Proposal Impact Criminal Justice Spending: Essay

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Introduction

California’s budget and the implementing legislation that concern it contain the most significant decisions made each year by the governor and the legislature. Although there is an assortment of constraints imposed by the constitution and statute, the budget determines spending and program precedence for critical state services. However, as noted by the California Citizens Budget Commission,

“The process by which the state makes these annual . . . decisions are encumbered with unnecessary procedural obstacles and serious informational inadequacies.” (California’s Citizens Budget Commission) The state’s budget process limits few constitutional standards. For instance, there is no constitutional obligation that the states enacts or maintain a balanced budget. Once a budget becomes unbalanced, there is no proper system for rebalancing the budget. An annual budget provides limited chances for establishing and implementing long-term strategic plans. Such plans would provide more direction for overall spending, ease the systematic evaluation of programs by the public, and boost accountability.

In a budget viewed by many as more conciliatory than in previous years, the Governor recognizes last year’s budget and new taxes imposed by the Legislature over his vetoes as the base for his SFY 2004- 05 Executive Budget proposal. General Fund expenditures for the judiciary and criminal justice programs are projected to decrease by 4.7 percent in the budget year. This net decline reflects Proposed shift of funding for trial court activities from the General Fund to new sales and uses tax revenues, Unallocated reductions in judicial and trial court funding, and Reductions in departmental operating expense and equipment funding, and the elimination of vacant positions.

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