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WV chief justice says court budget up due to mandates

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In a year when virtually every state agency and department is facing budget cuts, the state Supreme Court’s 2016-17 budget is slated to grow by $4.2 million to $143.6 million — but Chief Justice Menis Ketchum told members of the House and Senate Finance committees that’s strictly because of legislative mandates.

“Our budget has increased from $139 million to $143 million, and the reason it increased is because of these legislative mandates that the Supreme Court is required to pay,” Ketchum said during budget hearings. “I’m a skinflint, and I’m not happy at all with this budget.”

Among the mandates Ketchum cited: Last year, the Legislature passed bills increasing salaries for magistrates and staff, as well as adding four circuit court and two family court judges, at a total cost of $1.35 million a year.

Similarly, the Justice Reinvestment Act requires the Supreme Court to have drug courts operating in every county in the state by this July 1, at an additional cost of $1.12 million.

About 85 percent of the Supreme Court’s budget is mandated by law, which Ketchum said makes it difficult to cut spending.

“Every time we try to cut our budget, there’s another bill passed that says, the Supreme Court pays for it…

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