Budget panel wants more troopers, better pay for guardian ad litems
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.