Bar News - June 18, 2014
NH Judicial Branch Freezes Spending
By: Kristen Senz
In response to a projected $22 million state revenue shortfall, Gov. Maggie Hassan on May 22 froze some general fund expenditures by executive order, and the NH Judicial Branch has now followed suit.
In a NH Supreme Court order issued May 28, the Supreme Court froze spending for vacant positions, out-of-state travel, equipment purchases and other expenditures of more than $1,000, or smaller expenditures that would obligate the Judicial Branch to expenditures greater than $1,000 within the current fiscal year.
It’s unclear whether the spending freeze will affect judicial appointments by the governor that the court had been anticipating.
The Supreme Court order outlines a procedure for seeking a waiver from the freeze for essential functions. Donald Goodnow, director of the NH Administrative Office of the Courts, said the AOC has so far sought four waivers to fill vacant human resources, information technology and accounting positions. As of June 2, the Judicial Branch had 21 non-judicial job vacancies, out of a total workforce of 486 full-time employees.
Goodnow said the Supreme Court’s order provides guidance for scrutinizing openings to determine whether they need to be filled now or later.
“What we’re trying to do is balance the state’s revenue problem… with our need to continue operations, so what’s happening is we’re giving careful scrutiny of every position that becomes vacant,” he said.
The information technology and accounting positions are essential to the AOC as the Judicial Branch prepares to launch the NH e-Court Project in late July and develop its budget for the next biennium, Goodnow said.
The spending freeze order can be found on the Judicial Branch website under Supreme Court orders.