ALBANY, N.Y. — For the last several years, the New York Court System's budget has remained essentially flat. The state's top judge says that is having an adverse effect on access to the legal system.
"We cannot continue to take flat budgets and serve the people. It isn't good for the people. It isn't good for any branches of the government. Courtrooms are closing at 4:30. It isn't good for the people that they can't get equal justice because they can't get access to the courts," said Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.
Lippman is backing a 2 1/2 percent increase to the court system's budget after years of no increases.
This year's $142 billion budget proposal from Gov. Andrew Cuomo would increase the court budget by 2 percent, but Lippman says after years of flat spending, more money is needed to catch up.
"What we've been telling the governor's office and the Legislature is the judiciary is critical to our tripartite system of government and to our society," Lippman said.
Lippman first made the appeal for the higher budget in his State of the Judiciary address.
Asked about the proposal last week, Cuomo was not receptive.
"I say welcome to economic reality and welcome to the situation that families deal with all day long in this state," said Cuomo.
Lippman may have some help from his allies in the state Legislature. His longtime friend, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, backs the idea of a higher budget increase for the coming fiscal year.
"I think it's long overdue. They have been at a virtual freeze for several years. Costs have grown and I think it's important that they get an increase," said Silver, D-Manhattan.
Nearly all state agencies, as well as the comptroller and attorney general's offices, and both houses of the Legislature have submitted their own budgets that would hold spending under a 2 percent increase.