Spending Plan Includes More Funding for Courts and Local Law Enforcement
The budget agreement includes $3.5 billion for the judicial branch, excluding spending on infrastructure. This represents a $147.5 million increase over the 2014-15 budget act level and includes $26.9 million General Fund to reflect a projected increase in trial court workload as a result of Proposition 47 of 2014, which reclassified certain drug and property crimes as misdemeanors and allows people previously convicted of these crimes to be resentenced.
The spending plan also includes increased funding for local law enforcement. In particular, the budget agreement:
- Provides $31 million in state General Fund support for local law enforcement. The budget package includes three pots of money targeted toward local law enforcement in 2015-16:
- $20 million that may be used for any purpose, but will be provided only to police departments that “agree to provide data on the number of use-of-force incidents that result in hospitalization or death,” according to budget bill language.
- $6 million for initiatives “intended to strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” according to budget bill language.
- $5 million for new police facilities in Avenal, Corcoran, and Lemoore.
This $31 million funding level for local law enforcement is higher than the amount included in the Legislature’s initial version of the budget package ($18 million), but lower than the $40 million in unrestricted funding proposed by the Governor. Under a 2012-13 agreement between the Legislature and the Governor, state General Fund support for local law enforcement – specifically, city police departments – was supposed to last just three years, expiring in 2014-15, but the current budget agreement extends this support into a fourth year.
- Creates a debt amnesty program to generate revenue for various state and local purposes, including local law enforcement training programs. This new program will allow certain people with overdue court-ordered traffic fines to reduce their debt by 50 percent. The program will operate from October 1, 2015, through March 31, 2017. Additionally the program:
- Reduces the debt further if individuals receive public assistance or if their monthly income is less than 125 percent of the federal poverty line.
- Waives the current $300 court-imposed assessment fee and replaces it with a $50 administrative fee.
- Reinstates participants’ driver licenses if the licenses were suspended due to the outstanding debt.
The Administration estimates that this program will generate $150 million in revenues, which will largely support various criminal justice programs, including training for local law enforcement.