Chief Justice Roy Moore discusses the judicial branch's budgets and possible layoffs.
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court disagreed with the decisions of lawmakers and the governor to divert additional funds to the state's nationally recognized Pre-K program during budget talks.
"The program didn't even exist when I last held this position" Chief Justice Roy Moore told WSFA 12 News in an exclusive interview.
Moore said the judicial branch faces an $8.4 million shortfall even after fee increases were approved by lawmakers last year. That shortfall comes after cost-cutting efforts like closing clerks' offices one day each week from the public to let court workers catch up on work to keep caseloads from becoming impossible to manage.
"The fee increases weren't enough" Judge Moore said. Despite those funding woes, Moore ruled out tax hikes or any other sources for new revenue. He said the state must reallocate it's resources in order to budget wisely.
The Chief Justice attempted to make it clear that he's not pitting young children against the court system, but added that you can't leave the court system underfunded.
"In the Constitution we're guaranteed adequate and reasonable financing" Moore said. "We haven't had adequate and reasonable financing in many many years."
On the Pre-K issue, Judge Moore alluded to the fact that state government has grown too much since he was last in office in 2003. "I'm not against children and I'm not against education but again this is a program that didn't exist when I was here in 2000 and now we're $8.5 million dollars short and they're giving 9.4 million dollars that didn't even exist when I was here before" he said.
Moore also pointed out that the Unified Judicial System isn't "just another state agency."
"We're a branch of government" Moore said. "There's the executive, the legislative, and the judicial."
Moore said the judicial branch has been cut more over the past few years than any other branch of government.
If the Unified Judicial System does get an additional $8 million through conditional appropriations, funds set aside by lawmakers in the event revenues are higher than expected, then 150 court workers will keep their jobs.