Gov. Pete Ricketts responds to a warning delivered to lawmakers by Chief Justice Mike Heavican by saying all segments of state government will suffer cuts in order to balance the budget.
Ricketts calls the judicial branch a partner in prison reform and contends he gave it maximum flexibility to prioritize its spending.
“We all have to make tough decision,” Ricketts says. “I think every agency has been asked to participate in one way or another to be involved in this.”
Chief Justice Heavican warned lawmakers their efforts to reform the state prison system are being imperiled by the proposed budget cuts. Heavican, in his annual State of the Judiciary address to the Unicameral, told legislators LB 605, the Justice Reinvestment Act, received buy-in from all three branches of government as a way to ease prison overcrowding. He implied the budget cuts proposed by the governor reneged on a promise of adequate funding made by the executive branch.
Heavican said the budget cuts would undermine efforts to add the probation officers needed to keep offenders from being sentenced to prison. He reminded lawmakers probation was cheaper than incarceration.
Ricketts says he has treated the judiciary no differently than other segments of state government, which are looking for ways to cut their spending.
“The governor’s office is doing it,” Ricketts says. “Other agencies that report to my office are doing it. Other agencies that don’t report to my office are participating. So, these are tough times from a budget standpoint. We all have to do our part and tighten our belts.”
Though Ricketts has proposed cuts to the judiciary, he has left the Department of Correctional Services off the budget chopping block.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]