Last night the House of Representatives passed its version of
the FY14 budget. The House added $135 million into the budget
originally proposed by the House Ways and Means Committee.
Several areas of the budget, which were supported by the
Massachusetts Bar Association, met with successful outcomes after
Judicial Pay Increase
Included in the House budget is a long-sought-after compensation
increase for Massachusetts judges. It is an incremental increase
happening in three stages. On Jan. 1, 2014, trial court judges'
salaries will rise to $144,694; on July 1, 2014 they will rise to
$154,694 and on July 1, 2015 they will rise to $159,694. The budget
included $5.7 million for the first phase of the increase.
Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
The Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) was
successful in having $2 million added to its budget. Although it is
$2.5 million less than what MLAC requested, it is $1 million
dollars more than MLAC's FY2013 budget of $12 million.
Committee for Public Counsel Services
The two sections of concern that would have established a pilot
program in Middlesex County shifting 25 percent of new district
court cases to attorneys affiliated with private or non-profit
entities on a caped, flat-fee basis rather than assigned private
counsel were stricken from the budget. The MBA was concerned that
this would affect the quality of representation.
In addition to the compensation increase, the Trial Court was
given an additional $6 million in its general operations line item
bringing total Trial Court funding to $573.8 million, still lower
than the $589.5 million maintenance request.
Attention now turns to the Senate, who will take up their
version of the budget in May. Both branches will then appoint a
conference committee charged with working out differences between
the two budgets. After an up-or-down vote by both branches on the
conference committee's proposal, the budget is sent to Gov. Deval
L. Patrick for his review.