In the budget for the judicial branch of state government this morning, competing budgets were proposed in JFAC, with the sole differences whether or not to grant an increase in funding for the Guardian ad Litem program, through which volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates speak for children who are neglected or abused. In fiscal year 2013, 376 abused or neglected children were not served by CASA volunteers due to a lack of resources. Sens. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, advocated a budget adding $40,000 next year to the program, saying it hadn’t been funded in several years. Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, countered, “There’s a little over $600,000 in the base for this program, so it’s not like we’re not funding the program.” Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, proposed an additional $100,000 for the program next year. “They serve very, very vulnerable members of our society,” she said. “This money is to help train them.” The courts had requested a $262,500 boost; the program now has $75,000 less in state funding than it had in 2009.
King’s motion was voted down, 5-15, but Nuxoll’s passed, 15-5. JFAC Vice Chair Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, who made the original motion with no increase for that program, noted that the courts will get $4.85 million next year for the new court technology system. “This is going to be a one-time appropriation for the next five years,” he noted.
Overall, the courts will see a 27 percent increase in state general funds next year, with much of the increase due to the technology project; by the end of the phased-in project, all court filings will be electronic and online.