Ala. courts seek $8.5 million to avoid layoffs

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When the state government's new budget year begins on Oct. 1, Chief Justice Roy Moore says he will need assurances that the courts are going to get an extra $8.5 million in state funding or he will have to lay off 150 employees.

The governor and a legislative budget chairman say it's going to be hard to come up with that much money.

Gov. Robert Bentley said he has sympathy for the court system, but the state General Fund is tight. "I don't see $8.5 million being awarded. We'll have to see what's available," he said.

The state's $1.7 billion General Fund for the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1 is 0.4 percent larger than the current year's budget.

The budget will increase the court system's appropriation from $102.8 million this fiscal year to $108.4 million for the new year. That $5.6 million increase is second only to the $16.7 million increase given to the prison system. But Moore, who oversees the state court system, said $8.5 million more was needed to maintain court services at their current level.

To help the court system, the budget includes what legislators call a "first-priority conditional appropriation" of $8.5 million. The budget allows the governor to release extra funding to some state programs if tax collections exceed expectations. The budget requires that if the governor wants to release any extra funding, the court system has to get its $8.5 million first before any other program gets a penny extra.

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