(Sacramento, CA) — The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California released the following statement from SEIU 721 President Bob Schoonover as the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Public Safety considered Governor Brown’s proposal to cut $200 million from the judicial branch. The hearing comes after the independent State Auditor earlier this week issued a scathing report on the Administrative Office of the Court’s pursuit of a massive case management system computer project which is now years behind schedule and more than $1 billion over its initial budget. SEIU 721 represents court employees in Ventura and Los Angeles, California’s busiest court system:
“With California’s economy still struggling and the state budget in such a mess, we understand the need to find savings in every corner of government, including the judiciary. We agree with Governor Brown that cuts should be carried out in a way that doesn’t hurt the public, businesspeople, and our communities and that means prioritizing funding for local trial courts.
“This week’s report by California’s independent Auditor pulled the mask off the AOC’s claims that budget reductions require reductions in trial court services. The Auditor revealed that poor planning, documentation and cost controls drove AOC spending on a $33 million computer upgrade to balloon to an estimated $1.9 billion. With the project still years from completion, the Auditor has recommended putting the CCMS project on hold. We agree.
“In reviewing the Governor’s proposal, we urge Assembly subcommittee members to look first for savings in the centralized court bureaucracy whose spending has soared 44% over five years while staffing has grown 40%. A 20% reduction in AOC administration should be a starting point. Efficiencies can also be realized by transferring building construction and maintenance responsibilities to the Department of General Services (DGS) which has more expertise and is more cost efficient. According to a report released last year by the Assembly Accountability and Administrative Review Committee, DGS maintains state buildings at cost of 25% less than AOC contractors. We believe a top-to-bottom review of the AOC’s finances will reveal even more savings that can be redirected to preserve the heart of our judicial system, the local trial courts.
“We all need to pull together to help our state get through this crisis and make the right decisions now for California’s future. Working together, we can preserve our courts for our communities.”