More counties to spring for public defenders

Out in Nobles County (Worthington), the County Commissioners confirmed what public defender Lisa Kloster (“A Day in the Life of a Public Defender”) told me would happen once the Legislature cut the budget for public defenders — it would be another expense the state bailed on by passing the costs lower on the governmental food chain.

The commissioners passed a resolution to continue funding public defenders for cases involving termination of parental rights and child protection cases, the Worthington Daily Globe reports.

“That left us in a lurch — the court systems and the counties. If this isn’t an unfunded mandate, I’ve never seen one,” Judge Jeffrey Flynn of the Fifth Judicial District told the commissioners this week.

  • GregS

    Is there a good reason why the state should not push these costs down to the county level? The counties pay for the other half of the equation, the prosecutor’s office.

    Granted, the state has the power to raise income and sales taxes, and thus has greater access to revenues, and granted the county has little more than property taxes…..but then the state is running a deficit and the county’s are not.

    Isn’t the best government closest to the people who pay for it?

  • Bob Collins

    I believe the judge raised the issue of unfunded mandates. I suspect that’s the debate that’s in order.

  • Elizabeth Stawicki

    They think they already have according to MPR story from July 3…

    “Keith Carlson is executive director of the Minnesota Intercounty Association, which represents Minnesota’s 13 largest counties. He says counties are getting squeezed, too.

    The Legislature imposed caps on property taxes and cut funding for public defenders, an expense the state agreed to pay for during the early 1990s.

    ‘At that time we gave up state aid, dollar for dollar, assuming the cost for public defender services,” Carlson said. “So we believe we’ve already paid for this and that funding obligation now resides with the state. And consequently, the state is ultimately the party that should be paying for it.'”

  • Al

    Isn’t this really a result of the Taxpayer League ‘no state tax increase’ pledge? This is an easy pledge to keep if you just keep pushing the things the state pays for to lower levels of government. Of course the attitude behind this is that there is an awful problem of government waste. Hopefully this is an idea that has come and gone.

    I have a Republican relative on a city council in MN who frequently complains about taxes. My question is, “So, what are you wasting it on? You are the one deciding the fate of much of this money.” Of course the answer is that their council is not wasting the money. Their spending decisions are made carefully with the needs of the community in mind. Hopefully Republicans from local governments can convince Pawlenty that the Taxpayers League might be a bit off-base with their claims of waste.

  • GregS

    “No New Taxes”, “County spending caps”, “Taxpayers League”?

    Gee, and here I thought there were DFL majorities in both the Senate and the House.

  • Al

    The cuts in funding started long before there were DFL majorities in the House and Senate. It will take time to rebalance spending, particularly in difficult budget years. The other part of Pawlenty’s plan was to limit the ability of local governments to raise taxes to make up for the LGA and other funding streams that were cut. Thus, it became difficult for local governments to maintain services because Pawlenty thought he knew how local people were spending their money, that is to say they were all wasting it and needed to cut their budgets. And yes, Greg, the Taxpayers League is still around and at work.

  • GregS

    Gosh Al,

    The taxpayer league must be so successful that the DFL has endorsed its goals. Wasn’t it the DFL that trumpeted the “Property Tax Relief Act” in the 2007 session?

  • Lawrence Hartman

    Is there any public defender that has been laid off that would like to handle my case in Scott County Minnesota? Case file 70-CR-07-16544 has been on the books since July 19th 2007. PS. I am in retirement and would like to get on with my life without the hassles of some young person that has no idea of what life is all about and makes trouble for us older people.