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February 15, 2014
Gov. Scott calls for 21 new judgeships

Gov. Rick Scott’s 2014-15 recommended state budget includes funding for 21 new judges.

The judicial branch portion of the governor’s budget provides for $482 million — $369 million in general revenue and $113 million in trust funds.

According to the Office of the State Courts Administrator, here are some notable elements of the governor’s proposed budget for the judicial branch:

* Funding for 21 new judgeships (two for the Second District Court of Appeal, one for the Fifth District Court of Appeal, seven for circuit courts, and 11 for county courts);

* Continuation of funding for the post-adjudicatory drug court pilot projects;

* Continuation of funding for veterans’ courts; and

* $6.1 million for district courts of appeal maintenance and security.

With respect to state employees, Scott’s recommended budget features, among other issues:

* No change in retirement plan options;

* No change in judicial salaries; and

* Discretionary, one-time bonuses of $5,000 for qualifying state employees with a performance evaluation of “outstanding” and $2,500 for qualifying state employees with an evaluation of “commendable.”

The proposed budget makes no changes to benefits currently offered by state health insurance plans, but it appears to eliminate the “agency pay-all” insurance premium category, which would require judicial assistants and senior managers to pay the standard plan premium contribution, according to OSCA.

The Legislature is not bound to follow the budget recommendations, but they are a roadmap to the governor’s fiscal and policy priorities.

The Supreme Court called for the creation of 49 new judgeships — 46 for the trial courts and three for the appellate bench.

The court’s upcoming fiscal year’s budget request also makes increasing judicial branch employees’ pay a top priority and seeks a minimum 3.5 percent competitive salary increase for all state courts system employees, including judicial officers. The court says there has been a big lag between salaries and the rate of inflation, which has increased 15.9 percent cumulatively over the past seven years.

[Revised: 05-06-2015]