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June 2006

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


House Passes FY07 Funding Bill

On June 14, 2006, the House passed H.R. 5576, the $140 billion FY 2007 Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, District of Columbia appropriations bill. The bill gives the Judiciary, as a whole, $6.1 billion in funding for FY 2007, a 6.3 percent increase over FY 2006. The federal court's Salaries and Expenses account, an account divided into allotments for salaries and benefits, space and facilities, operating expenses, judges salaries and benefits, automation and technology, and other programs, received a 5.7 percent increase.

"This is a good level of funding, given the funding constraints and competing priorities the Committee had to deal with," said Administrative Office Director Leonidas Ralph Mecham, “and it will provide for current staffing levels. However, it does not fully fund court operating expenses or provide the courts with sufficient funds to pay for congressionally-mandated workload increases or needed initiatives, especially those along the southwest border."

The Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Judiciary is not expected to mark-up its version of the bill until July.

For FY 2007, the Judiciary requested $6.3 billion in funding. In April 2006, Judge Julia Gibbons (6 th Cir.), chair of the Judicial Conference's Budget Committee told a House Appropriations subcommittee, "We believe this level of funding represents the minimum amount required to meet our constitutional and statutory responsibilities."

The Judiciary’s funding requirements essentially reflect basic operating costs, largely for personnel and space requirements. Of the $540 million increase being requested for FY 2007, a total of $462 million, or 86 percent of the requested increase, represents must-pay items such as pay and benefit increases, space rental increases, panel attorney payments, and general inflationary increases for Judiciary programs.

The House Appropriations Committee has limited funding to distribute to the appropriations bills. In making the FY 2007 allocations to the subcommittees, Committee Chair Jerry Lewis (R-CA) noted that funding levels "will require some difficult choices and tough votes." As it turned out, the subcommittee’s allocation was only a 3.8 percent increase over FY 2006 funding, and yet they provided the Judiciary with a 6.3 percent increase.

"It is clear," said Director Mecham, "that the Judiciary is a funding priority for the Appropriations Committee."

The Judiciary competes for limited funds in its appropriations bill with several major programs, including the federal-aid highways program, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the General Services Administration, which builds federal courthouses.