The two-year budget proposed last week by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy includes raises for the state's judges and an overall fiscal boost for the state Judicial Branch.
Superior Court judges salaries would increase from $146,800 to $162,751 over a two-year period, at an additional cost to the state of $5.5 million. The raises would amount to 5.3 percent per year, which is the same amount proposed by a special committee appointed to investigate judicial salaries last fall.
Salaries for Appellate Court judges and Supreme Court justices would increase at the same rate.
In the meantime, the Judicial Branch budget, which currently sits at $482 million, would rise to $516 million in fiscal year 2014 and $538 million the following year. That would put spending back on par with where it was last year, when the Judicial Branch budget was $511 million.
Some of the added money would go for raises for prosecutors and public defenders.
Overall, Malloy's budget proposal calls for the state to spend $40.8 billion over the next two years.
If approved by the legislature, the judicial pay increase would be the first for state judges in more than five years. But as the state continues to struggle with a sluggish economy, and other agencies are slated for cuts, there is bound to be opposition in the legislature.
This is "a very difficult time to ask for significant wage increases for people who are already seen as doing pretty well," said Rep. Arthur O'Neill (R-Southbury), who sits on both the legislative Judiciary and Appropriations committees.
In the past, the Judicial Branch's budget proposal had to first pass through the state Office of Policy and Management, which could make changes before sending it to the legislature. However, under a recent law change, the proposal the legislature receives is the Judicial Branch's original proposal.
O'Neill said the request isn't exorbitant, but he added that many lawmakers will feel pressure to trim from anyplace possible as the state continues to deal with a fiscal crisis. "I think even though the Judicial Branch came up with a very tight number, they may not be immune to changes to their budget," O'Neill said.