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Chief Justice Pushes for More Dollars, Lawmakers May Give Them Despite Governor’s Plans

DES MOINES, Iowa--Iowa schools may be lucky to get two percent more money from lawmakers next year. Iowa's Chief Justice Mark Cady wants 3.5 times that much next year. And he has a decent shot at getting it, especially if Statehouse Republicans go with a new funding plan, instead of Governor Terry Branstad's recommendations.

"Instead of going to prison, graduates leave with a job, a support system and a far greater opportunity to succeed in life," Cady told lawmakers during the annual Condition of the Judiciary Address in the house chambers.

Cady's speech earned numerous, bipartisan standing ovations. He laid out of an unofficial theme of spending some money now to save more money later. To accomplish that, he listed several programs that required extra funding in the past--drug courts, veterans courts, and juvenile courts--that he said saved taxpayers nearly $22 million this year.

Representative Gary Worthan, a Storm Lake Republican who serves as budget chairman for the judiciary, praised Cady's speech and the chief justice personally. Worthan called him a "peach of a guy." And about the speech Worthan said Cady, "Hit the nail right on the head. Our challenge is always to quantify what the courts do for us. He did that in spades today."

Cady says his funding request, $194 additional next fiscal year, which begins in July, would allow him to keep courthouses open full-time, avoid ending successful programs that have paid off for the future and to give judges and magistrates a five percent salary increase, which could help make the positions more appealing.

"It is a return on investment in our shared commitment to protect Iowa's children," Cady said.

Worthan said to expect a House Republican plan soon--perhaps, as early as Thursday--to calm some of worries Cady has about immediate cuts to the judiciary. The governor proposed $7.7 million in cuts that would need to be realized before the fiscal year ends in June. But Worthan said, while he can't yet divulge details, the house plan "looks dramatically different than the governor's proposed budget.

He added, "I can give them some comfort that they can handle what the house budget will do."

Worthan also said to watch for changes to what the governor envisions for the next fiscal year, as well. He said it comes down to prioritizing different areas. "Education gets the first bite of the apple," Worthan said, "Everybody else gets the leftovers. We need to take a long, hard look at that...Education is not in the constitution. The justice system is."