FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Budget cuts may force some defendants who
would normally rely on public defenders to appear in court without
state-funded legal representation, the Department for Public
Advocacy Commission announced Tuesday.
The state spending blueprint authorized last week by the General
Assembly would cut the Department for Public Advocacy by $2.5
million in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, DPA
commission chairman Robert Ewald said. That means some defendants
who would normally be assigned a public defender may not get one,
"We don't have enough money to pay enough lawyers," Ewald said
in a telephone interview. "People don't work for nothing, and you
can't tell a lawyer to take 800 cases per year."
Kentucky lawmakers last week approved a two-year, $19 billion
state spending plan that cuts some government programs and services
across the state. Economic forecasters have projected the state is
facing a $900 million revenue shortfall during the next two years.
Lawmakers offset some of Gov. Steve Beshear's proposed cuts
through a plan that included taking additional proceeds from the
Kentucky Lottery, restructuring some of the state's debt and
capitalizing on an expected flood of retiring state employees.
Beshear and other lawmakers called for raising the tax on
cigarettes as a way to fill the projected revenue hole. Beshear
wanted legislators to agree to raising the cigarette tax by 70
cents per pack, while the House approved a quarter-per-pack tax
hike. Ultimately, the legislature did not agree to raise taxes
after the Senate opposed the idea.