2019 Nevada Legislature: Nevada Judiciary seeks 16.2 percent funding increase
The Nevada Judiciary is asking for a $12.9 million, 16.2 percent increase in General Fund money for the coming two years.
Supreme Court Justice Jim Hardesty on Tuesday told lawmakers of the Nevada Legislature the funding is necessary to cover a variety of shortfalls including declining revenue from administrative assessments imposed almost entirely on misdemeanors handled by municipal and justice courts across the state.
Those assessments, Hardesty said, are, “imposed on people who get traffic tickets and other misdemeanor offenses.”
“Those assessments, over time, have continued to decline and as they have declined the court has had no choice but to ask they be supplemented by General Fund dollars,” he told a joint panel of the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees.
Pointing out this is far from the first time the issue has been raised, Hardesty said those assessments account for about a third of judicial branch budget, about $44.3 million of the biennial total $137.6 million. He pointed out there’s no correlation between traffic fines and the operation of district and supreme courts in Nevada. The General Fund portion of judicial branch funding totals $92 million, fully half of which goes to pay district judge salaries across the state.
He said the remaining unknown is what impact the voter approved Marsy’s Law will have on administrative assessments. That new that rule requires that constitutional change, which took effect in November, requires restitution for victims be collected first.
“The court does not yet know what impact this may have on AA revenues,” he said.
But Hardesty said there are other serious issues necessitating the increase as well, including $1.2 million in salary increases approved but not funded by lawmakers two years ago another $1.2 million for a new case management system, just under $1 million for the Juvenile Dependency Mediation Program and the $1.28 million that will be needed to replace the DUI fees that fund DUI court that are set to sunset this next year.
Also on the list is just more than $3 million that will be needed to pay the increases in judicial salaries the high court is seeking. Hardesty told lawmakers raises of $30,000 a year for Supreme Court, Appellate Court and District Court judges would be the first raises they have received in a decade and wouldn’t actually take effect for another two years since elected officials can’t get raises until they’re re-elected. For district judges, that would be after the 2020 elections.
“If this is not done, the next opportunity to raise judicial salaries would not occur for another eight years,” he said.
If approved, Assembly Bill 46 would raise the base salary of Supreme Court Judges from $170,000 to $200,000, of Appellate Court Judges from $165,000 to $195,000 and District Court salaries from $160,000 to $190,000.
On top of that, judges receive 2 percent annual longevity pay increases after their fourth year on the bench up to a maximum of 22 percent at 11 years service.
The judiciary’s proposed budgets will be examined in detail during the upcoming legislative session which starts Monday.