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Governor’s budget seeks increases for Missouri courts

Mike Parson speaks to the Missouri Legislature

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson delivers the State of the State address Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in Jefferson City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson made no mention of the state’s recent legalization of marijuana in his Jan. 18 state of the state speech. But his budget recommendations released the same day acknowledge that the state’s courts will need additional funding to cover the costs of expunging criminal records as required by that amendment.

Voters last November approved Amendment 3, which revised the existing medical marijuana amendment to the state constitution and added new language allowing adults to use the drug recreationally. The amendment also calls for the automatic expungement of nonviolent marijuana-related offenses.

Parson’s proposed budget for the 2024 fiscal year includes $4.54 million in funding for the Office of State Courts Administrator and the state’s circuit courts to accomplish those expungements, as well as $2.47 million to be used for similar purposes during the current fiscal year.

The figures match those requested by the court system. In a budget proposal, court officials said the money would cover computer programming costs and temporary staff and overtime to address the increased workload of the courts.

Parson’s budget also would institute an 8.7 percent cost of living increase for state employees, including those of the courts and the public defender system.

“For anyone who can’t already see the dire need for this action, we want to be clear, this is not state government setting the market,” Parson said in his speech. “This is merely an attempt by state government to stay competitive with the market.”

Additionally, Missouri judges would see a 4.6 percent bump in pay under a formula that ties their salaries to those of their federal counterparts. It also calls for the addition of about $160,000 to add an associate circuit judge in the St. Charles County Circuit Court, based on population growth in that county.

Members of the Missouri House and Senate will craft their own versions of the budget, which must be passed by May 5.

Parson’s annual speech will be followed on Feb. 8 by Chief Justice Paul C. Wilson’s state of the judiciary speech to a joint session of the state legislature.