Hiring more state troopers, increasing pay for state attorneys who represent children’s interests in court proceedings and ensuring Utah’s crime-victim reparations fund has adequate money are among the top funding priorities of the Legislature’s budget committee over criminal justice.
At the top of the “starting point” list is $576,000 to add state troopers and $227,400 to hire a new criminal-appeals lawyer in the Utah attorney general’s office. The panel also asked that the main budget committee sign off on $1.6 million to replenish the Crime Victim Reparations Fund, used to provide counseling, health care, relocation and other services to victims.
The committee also recommended that $1.3 million be designated to bring pay for guardian ad litems, who represent children in court, in line with salaries of other state attorneys.
The committee approved one-time funds of $750,000 to help the state crime lab work through a backlog in processing rape kits, but eliminated an additional request for $600,000 in ongoing funds for that purpose after public safety officials said they want more time to evaulate how to improve the processing system.
A bid to set aside $1 million to increase pay for state troopers failed.
“As much as I wish we could give them the same amount of love we gave them last year, I can’t support that motion” with so many other items competing for funding, said committee co-chairman Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City.
The bottom line total of the 26-item list is $16 million.
— Brooke Adams