In response to an order from Gov. Sonny Perdue to trim their budgets by 6%, state agencies have cut services, restricted travel expenses, implemented hiring freezes, put off purchases and introduced mandatory unpaid furloughs.
But the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council (GPDSC) voted in August to reject the governor’s order out of hand, saying the state’s system for providing legal representation to poor people is already stretched to its limits. The council argued that further cuts would prevent it from providing necessary legal services.
“We have a duty to push back, and push back now,” Wyc Orr, a council member, told the Associated Press. “What could they do to us? They can’t fire us.”
Perdue ordered the cuts to address a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.
In response, state prosecutors ordered employees to take one unpaid day off per month starting in December. The state Supreme Court cut travel and research budgets. The Council of Superior Court Judges announced a plan to replace senior judges with retired judges, to be paid on a per diem basis. “It’s definitely going to slow down the courts,” said Stephen Goss, a circuit judge who serves as president of the council.
Perdue defended the cuts as necessary in light of the state’s grim revenue picture. But GPDSC has already undergone several rounds of budget cuts over the past few years. The most recent, in which GPDSC Director Robert “Mack” Crawford closed the Metro Conflict Defenders Office in Atlanta, spawned a lawsuit from the Southern Center for Human Rights, which called the closure “unconscionable.”
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