Funding Alternatives Work Group
August 21, 2003
Members present: Kirk Johns, Glenn Olson, Joan Ferebee, Andra Motyka, Betty Gould, Judge Gordon Godfrey, David Donnan, Judge Craig Matheson, Judge Deborah Fleck, Mary McQueen, Ron Mattson, Bob Dowdy, Wayne Blair, Barb Miner, Hugh Spitzer, Bill Fosbre
Guests: Tammy Fellin, Gail Stone
Staff: Jeff Hall, Jude Cryderman, Gil Austin
Call to order
Report on September 26 meeting
Mr. Blair said at the last CLJ Work Group meeting they discussed when a city decides to incorporate the requirement that the city must set up a municipal court. There are several choices for setting up a municipal court which are set out under Title 3. Wayne suggested get work groups together to discuss issues.
Ms. McQueen pointed out that although there is no discretion whether or not to have a municipal, the voters have the discretion whether or not to create a municipality.
The work group briefly discussed issued relating to the establishment of municipal courts.
Mr. Johns urged not making the need for joint meeting too narrow and focused. He indicated there is a need for the work groups to fully understand all of the issues.
Ms. McQueen said the work group is gravitating to the idea that the state need to contribute more dollars. She continued, if the work group is going to recommend that the state pick up more of the costs, the group needs to determine how much that is. In addition, they will need to identify what is the best distribution option—whether it should be functional or percentage. Also how would these moneys be distributed/allocated—pass through, population based formula or some other method.
The group agreed it is important to understand where everything fits into continuum and attach dollars to the figures. How distributed is separate discussion. Kirk indicated if the work group comes up with some proposed allocation, what will be used as the basis for the allocation? He felt the group is gravitating towards the functional approach. Which ever approach is used supporting documentation will need to be developed.
Judge Matheson said the work group should create a basic rationale to assist in identifying what should be paid for by the state and what should be paid for by the county.
Ms. Stone indicated that a 50/50 split of the costs would be fair. She pointed out that just about everything that comes to the court will have some level of state nexus.
Mr. Dowdy asked “what’s the base case?” He explained the base case is how much money do you need. What if distributed the same the dollars are currently distributed? Talk about base case and all of the alternatives at the same time. Mr. Dowdy continued, if we know we have $100 million gap, spread gaps in same way current revenues are being spread. Mr. Dowdy pointed if base case were displayed the problem would be apparent. He reminded that not everyone has the same view on where the efficiencies are.
Mr. Johns outlined where the document fit into their original purposes of the exercise. The first factor considered by the work group was that the current state share of court funding was too low; the next consideration was what it should be and a review of the national figures indicated that the state should pay about 45%. Then they considered if the national norm was reasonable and what other states used to reach the 45%; the conclusion from the latter consideration was that there was no national rationale;
Mr. Johns provided a review of how the issue then determined what percentage should be established:
Mr. Johns felt the latter two approaches were the most justifiable means to approach the justification for state or local funding and the allocation committee document addressed the functional area only.
Ms. McQueen proposed looking at funding the current costs, what are the sources of the revenue, how does one provide for additional costs and how is that revenue raised.
Judge Godfrey asked what the gap represented. Mr. Blair responded that it was the difference between current funding and what is needed for adequate funding.
Mr. Hall advised that the simgap information would be almost complete for the joint meeting. The group briefly discussed the simgap information.
Mr. Dowd inquired if the courts kept up with inflation, growth of population, growth of state budget.
Ms. McQueen stated that information will be provided at next meeting.
Ms. Miner explained that the draft information provides picture of user fee information. She said she had tried to indicate where state split is in place. The new fees have that information.
Judge Fleck asked if the new fees would benefit the clerk’s office or the court? Ms. Gould responded the clerk’s office.
Mr. Spitzer said the amount of the fee needs to bear some relationship to the service provided. If paying for clerk time, fee less, but if paying clerk and court time the fee would be more. If able to show it takes more time to handle for corporation rather than a person, fee for corporation should be higher. Mr. Spitzer said the fee could to go into special fund, drawn off for specific reason. Bear in mind, contrast with user fees, if what you have is a tax—many counties pay tax when file paper—definition is charge for an event-no relationship between what some pays and the amount. The money can be used for any governmental purpose.
Ms. Miner reviewed the 4 alternatives for expansion of existing user fees
The members briefly discussed judgment tax.
Judge Fleck said the more you add on fees, the greater likelihood is that appropriate summary judgments won’t be filed. Cost of processing the informa pauperis process is not in Barb’s document. Judge Fleck indicated it is fairly costly to process those papers.
Judge Fleck said the group should think about unintended consequences. Rich take cases out of this system. Maybe cost claims as additional filing fees. Would have to file own lawsuit. Judgment tax paid in addition by the looser.
Mr. Johns said that with the amount of gap lower that what originally thought to be, sense is that because the gap is lower the ability to get general taxation to fill gap will be easier.
Mr. Dowdy indicated he would hope that the taxation doesn’t discriminate against business. Some business are only one or two people. Some large business are not doing very well, either.
Ms. Miner referenced the point that these fee proposals concern only superior courts while in a discussion with CLJ clerks they were not willing to raise their fees due to fears of the collection lobby in the legislation. Ms. Miner pointed out that her proposal does not include civil filing fees, a judgment fee and does raise about $10M.
Mr. Donnan felt that it is important to have some amount of user fees so in the political process it would be useful to have litigants pay some of the increased cost and suggested that certain discovery fees could be added. He spoke to excluding certain fees, such as an answer fee, but that some costs could be included to help meet the gap in needed funding.
Judge Godfrey stated once you starting creating that type of monster (PSEA), people will compete for the dollars. Going down same road as PSEA of 20 years. This is short term gap for major long term problem. Maybe more effort that needs. Doesn’t address why we are here.
Mr. Johns stated the PSEA is broken. That account either needs to be fixed or left for those who want to use it. Find something new options for the courts.
Ms. McQueen pointed out the courts will still be asked to collect and distribute those money. May abandon as revenue issue. She continued if can’t fix PSEA, at minimum helpful to make it easier to administer. If the PSEA were set up in the statute awith a review committee, similar to transportation that reviews transportation budget, that might provide a fix. Ms. McQueen offered to develop a proposal for the next meeting.
Ms. McQueen said if anyone has ideas for PSEA, they should write-up in bullet format and bring to next meeting. Ms. McQueen will outline trust fund concept.
Court Funding Task Force Meeting
Mr. Johns advised of the upcoming full task force meeting. Mr. Johns said he feels it appropriate to report where we are, what we are looking at and what our mission is. Helpful to tell looking at user fees and issues related to user fees.
Mr. Blair indicated it is important for others to hear discussion that has gone on today.
Mr. Johns said he would prepare a one page chart of user fee issues, will circulate to the work group prior to the meeting. That document will be used as one page report to task force. It will identify relevant considerations, policy issues that were raised, and practical issues that need to be addressed.
The Work Group briefly revisited the joint meeting with the Problem Definition Work Group. It was decided by Mr. Johns that the Work Groups should look for another date to hold the joint meeting.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.
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