FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear would spare the state Corrections Department and public defenders in his next two-year budget while further cutting money for prosecutors, the Kentucky State Police and the court system.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Beshear said he's encouraged by early cost-saving trends from the criminal reforms enacted by the 2011 General Assembly. House Bill 463 was expected to shrink prison and jail populations and save an estimated $42 million a year, in part by shifting non-violent drug offenders into addiction treatment and community supervision.
As a result, the state's population of incarcerated felons should drop to 19,141 by Fiscal Year 2014 instead of rising to 22,011, Beshear said.
Simultaneously, the state is trying to open hundreds of additional slots in treatment programs to accommodate the new demand.
"We feel good about the implementation of it so far," Beshear said. "We are on the right path. It will save us money in terms of reducing the number of prisoners incarcerated in our prison system, and I also suspect it will save us money in terms of recidivism."
Beshear would cut 2.2 percent in the first year of his budget from the Kentucky State Police, the Department of Juvenile Justice and the state medical examiner. Funding would hold at that reduced level in the second year. Attorney General Jack Conway's office would lose 8.4 percent the first year and then hold at that reduced level.
The Kentucky State Police has seen 15 percent in cumulative budget cuts under Beshear — less than some parts of state government, but enough to keep its number of sworn troopers at about 915, down from its full authorized strength of 1,070.
The Corrections Department will get $478 million in FY 2013 and $480 million in FY 2014. This fall, the state expects to reopen the riot-damaged Northpoint Training Center in Boyle County and then end its use of the privately owned Otter Creek Correctional Center in Wheelwright.
Beshear would spend $14 million more over two years to hire additional parole and pretrial officers, as part of the criminal reforms, and $8 million more on substance abuse treatment, which could serve 5,800 addicts, he said. Beshear would spend $4 million to improve the KASPER prescription tracking system.
Public defenders at the state Department of Public Advocacy would be spared further cuts "simply because of the overwhelming caseloads they have," Beshear said. But commonwealth's and county attorneys would lose 2.2 percent the first year, holding at that reduced level the second year.
The judicial branch, which runs the state courts, would see a 1.5 percent increase, taking it to $320 million next year.
However, Beshear said, that sum includes money for specific projects, such as the cost of opening several new judicial centers, employee health insurance and contributions to retirement plans. Apart from that, the judiciary's operating funds would be cut 8.4 percent next year, he said.
Chief Justice John Minton, who oversees the judicial branch, said it's too early to tell if the courts will need to lay off more workers. Already, 282 jobs at the state Administrative Office of the Courts have been eliminated in past budget cuts, 160 of which were filled at the time, Minton said.
"We realize that it's less than we'll need to meet our current and expected future expenditures," Minton said. "I can tell you this, that 88 percent of our operations budget is personnel."