Monday, January 26, 2009

Can't squeeze blood from a turnip, and you can't eliminate services the Constitution requires you provide.

The Republican leaders in the state legislature have proposed a 3.4% across-the-board budget cut. Nothing would be exempt as far as I can tell. Not education, even though our state constitution requires education be funded. Not agencies that are already operating as efficiently as they can and have already cut wasteful spending. And not indigent defense.

How we're going to cut 3.4% is beyond me. We've already lost our water cooler. We get no CLEs or outside training paid for. We didn't get calendars this year. We only get new furniture when the state banking commission buys new stuff and we get to scavenge their old stuff. Venue studies aren't funded. I don't know what else there is to cut but salary.

Here's what I'm not sure many legislators get: if we cut salary by eliminating an attorney position or two, that doesn't really save the state any money. Because the clients that that attorney would have represented still have to be represented by somebody and the state still has to foot the bill. An across-the-board cut doesn't recognize the difference between indigent defense and other important, but not constitutionally-required, services provided by the state. Cutting our funding doesn't do anything to alter the demand for our services. And as long as there are defendants who need our services, the state is obligated to provide those services. If the state doesn't provide public defenders, defendants are going to walk. I know legislators don't want that to happen.

I worry the next year and a half could get very ugly for us (and, of course, our clients) if the legislature doesn't figure out that they can't just eliminate indigent defense.

3 comments:

One Girl's Opinion said...

And you know THEY won't be taking pay cuts! What if we did this ... let's have half the amount of legislatures. That's half their salaries gone. We could use that money for something else and they wouldn't be around to make more trouble!

I like it ... I bet they wouldn't.

We have to get more creative across the board with how we stretch the dollar. It sucks. Hope you aren't too badly affected!

S said...

Many, many of the comments on local newspapers have led off with the complaint that those legislators aren't volunteering for pay cuts!

We definitely have to be creative with budgeting right now, but we have to do it in a smart way. This one size fits all agencies approach just won't work.

Don't worry about me, though. The entire state would have to collapse completely for me to be out of work.

mikeb302000 said...

I'm afraid you're right that it's gonna get worse before it gets better. Hang in there. You're doing important work and putting your heart into it. There should be more like you.

 
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