The fiscal year 2015 budget proposal released this week by the
House Committee on Ways and Means contains less funding than what
the Trial Court and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
(MLAC) had requested. However, funding amounts can still change, as
this is just the first step in the Legislature's budget
As the Massachusetts Bar Association noted in its "12 for
12" initiative, the Trial Court has been seeking maintenance
funding of $615 million in the FY2015 budget. Under the House Ways
and Means proposal, the Trial Court would only receive $609.4
Similarly, the $13 million budget for civil legal aid funding
recommended by the House Ways and Means proposal is $4 million less
than the $17 million requested by MLAC, which is responsible for
receiving the appropriated funds and making grants to civil legal
aid organizations. After the House Ways and Means proposal was
released, MLAC issued a statement, which noted that Rep. Ruth
Balser (D-Newton) will file an amendment to increase legal aid
funding to $17 million in the final House budget.
"Civil legal aid assures fairness for all in the justice
system," said Lonnie Powers, Executive Director of MLAC. "We look
forward to working with members of the House of Representatives to
ensure that their final budget includes adequate funding for the
critical legal help that allows people to protect their
livelihoods, their health, and their families."
The House Ways and Means budgetary proposal for the judiciary
includes $2.7 million to expand specialty courts that address
substance abuse and mental health issues. Other notable budget
items include $167.8 million for the Committee for Public Counsel
Services (far less than their $206.6 million mainenance request),
$12.6 million for the Appeals Court and $8.4 million for the
Supreme Judicial Court.
The House is scheduled to debate the budget later this month.
The Senate Committee on Ways and Means will propose its budget in
May, which will then be debated. Once each branch passes their
budgets a conference committee will be appointed to hash out a
compromise budget, which will be sent to Governor Deval L. Patrick
for approval. Fiscal year 2015 begins on July 1, 2014.