Office of the Attorney General
State Prosecutors May Furlough Employees As Part Of Budget Reduction Plan
Today, the Prosecutors Advisory Council submitted its budget reduction plan to Gov. Steve Beshear regarding the request for a 4% budget reduction. At a special meeting on Wednesday, the Prosecutors Advisory Council debated the options available to it in addressing the proposed budget cut. The meeting was attended by more than 80 prosecutors. The Council voted to give elected prosecutors the option of reducing staff salaries by 14-16%, furloughing employees in one-week increments or laying off employees to meet the targeted budget reduction amount. The components of the proposed prosecutor budget reduction plan were sent to Governor Beshear today. If the Unified Prosecutorial System is not exempted from this budget cut, prosecutors’ offices could begin furloughs or layoffs of employees as early as January 2009.
“The Commonwealth’s prosecutors are in a crisis situation,” said Chris Cohron, president of the Commonwealth’s Attorneys Association. “The severe underfunding of the prosecutorial system is going to continue to have an adverse effect on our employees and the criminal justice system as a whole. Prosecutors were not sufficiently funded by the General Assembly during this legislative session, and these additional requests to cut our budget will have a devastating effect. ”
The Commonwealth’s Attorneys are facing a budget shortfall in fiscal year 2009 of more than $1.3 million, which equates to the funding for 84 employees.
“This is the worst budget crisis and potentially the most dangerous public safety crisis I have seen in the last thirty years,” said Ray Larson, Fayette County Commonwealth’s Attorney.
The state’s County Attorneys are also facing a severe budget shortfall this fiscal year. The budget shortfall for County Attorneys is more than $1.1 million, which equates to approximately a 16% reduction in staff salaries.
Mike Foster, president of the Kentucky Association of Counties and Prosecutors Advisory Council member, noted that if prosecutors are not exempted from this latest budget reduction, they will lose staff necessary to prosecute cases.
“Our County Attorneys are on the frontline in protecting the public in cases of domestic violence and DUI. We also are responsible for removing children from abusive homes. Underfunding our offices hurts not only our employees, but the public as a whole,” Foster said.
Attorney General Jack Conway, who chairs the Prosecutors Advisory Council, voiced concern over this latest round of budget cuts.
“Prosecutors are unique because their budgets are personnel driven. For example, the budget for County Attorneys is more than 98% personnel. Therefore, these proposed cuts will have far-reaching effects that could include reducing the number of prosecutors, increasing case loads, delaying court proceedings and potentially compromising public safety. Even before the present fiscal crisis, the prosecutors and the Office of the Attorney General were significantly underfunded, so I am now urging the governor to consider exempting critical components of public safety, such as prosecutors, from these proposed cuts,” General Conway said.
There are 57 elected Commonwealth’s Attorneys and 120 elected County Attorneys whose staffs handle all of the criminal prosecutions in the Commonwealth. Prosecutorial employees include assistant prosecutors, victims’ advocates, detectives, and support staff in every county in the state. Once the General Assembly passes a budget, the money allotted to prosecutors is administered by the Prosecutors Advisory Council. The Prosecutors Advisory Council is chaired by the Attorney General and consists of three Commonwealth’s Attorneys, three County Attorneys, and two citizen members, all of whom are appointed by the governor.
Link to PAC letter to Gov. Beshear