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Moore: State’s judicial branch faces $19 million shortfall

Alabama’s Supreme Court chief justice says the court fee increases paid by the public and approved by lawmakers last year are not generating as much revenue as expected, leaving the branch of government with a funding shortfall.

Roy Moore said the judicial system will need at least $19 million more in fiscal 2014 than Gov. Robert Bentley is suggesting it receive from the state’s general fund. Without the extra money, Moore said personnel cuts will be unavoidable.

“(The court fee increase) didn’t bail us out; it didn’t cover what was cut,” Moore said. “I’m not saying it is anyone’s fault, but it isn’t working.”

Lawmakers and Bentley cut the judicial system’s general fund allocation by about $25 million last year. Fee increases were expected to generate about $20 million a year for the judicial administrative fund, which funds court operations. Moore said the fee increases are only bringing in about $1 million monthly, leaving a $13 million shortfall in the judicial branch.

Add in what he expects to be a $6 million increase in costs for in 2014, including having to pay more for employees’ health insurance and retirees’ pensions, and Moore said he’ll be $19 million short under Bentley’s proposed level funding.

Bentley’s office did not immediately respond to questions about Moore’s comments this morning.

By Mary Sell
The TimesDaily