Your morning jolt: Hunstein warns of a future budget confrontation over court system

Carol Hunstein, the next chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, says she is “honor-bound” to uphold a budget-cutting agreement hammered out between Gov. Sonny Perdue and her predecessor.

Hunstein is to succeed Leah Ward Sears, who leaves the court at the end of the month.

Perdue had ordered the state judiciary to trim its June budget by $2 million. A compromise was reached that will allow unpaid bills to be deferred until July and the next fiscal year.

In an interview with WABE’s Denis O’Hayer, available on line, Hunstein said she won’t attempt a renegotiation:

”I think our chief did the best she could to work out a resolution of [what] potentially would have been a constitutional crisis.”

But Hunstein hinted that the current bargain is only a postponement of a serious confrontation:

”You currently have prosecutors who can’t prosecute.

“You have problems with the public defenders office — which means that criminal cases in particular are not being tried, which means that someone who may have been convicted of a crime had the trial been able to go forward, will now be free…”

Hunstein said the courts have done their best to comply with cuts required by the governor and the Legislature.

”But we are not a state agency. And we really do have constitutional requirements placed upon us. And it is our duty to make sure that we comply with those constitutional duties.

“It’s very important, I think, for people of this state to have access to their court system. And at this point in time, I’m not so sure that that’s available on a really effective basis…”

The second portion of Hustein’s interview with O’Hayer airs this afternoon.

Democratic candidate for governor Dubose Porter says he’d back a hike in the state tobacco tax — if Republicans would give his House Democratic the chance.

This article in Friday’s Savannah Morning News almost slipped past us:

Among Porter’s low-priority spending items are fish ponds, boat ramps and horse barns – all in the budget Perdue recently signed.

He also said the state should consider having local authorities or private contractors – rather than the state – collect sales taxes. Alabama has increased annual revenue by $1 billion a year with such a system, he added.

“We’re open to anything that works,” he said, speaking for the House Democratic caucus.

That includes a buck-a-pack cigarette tax increase sought by Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, Porter said.

“If he could get it out of committee, he could get help from Democrats,” Porter added.

But Stephens said Thursday that the leadership of the GOP majority still staunchly opposes any tax increase.

While you ponder that, consider these items found while perusing this morning’s ajc.com:

  • The Rome companies that funneled cash to Republican John Oxendine have used the same method in other campaigns.
  • Jury out on whether Roy Barnes’ high-profile cases will hurt — or help — with voters.
  • GBI files complaint over judge’s curses directed at drug investigators.
  • Home insurance costs jump 5 to 11 percent this year.
  • The median top executive compensation in Georgia last year: $1,876,615.
  • Despite its near “junk bond” status, Atlanta plans to issue $600 million in bonds for water, sewer work.
  • Foes try to derail Mayor Shirley Franklin’s vendor kiosk plan.
  • 51 Georgia schools among nation’s 1,500 best, according to Newsweek.
  • Six Flags files for bankruptcy protection.
  • DOT to get new chief this week for revamped post.
  • Some opinion:

  • Your Luckovich fix.
  • Cynthia Tucker thinks the GOP blew up the federal budget on their own.
  • Jim Wooten on dropping by, sometimes for a whuppin’, sometimes for a treat.
  • Bob Barr posits that spy agencies need firm direction.
  • Jack Bernard on why Republicans should favor an overhaul of the health system.
  • From elsewhere in Georgia:

  • ABH: Yarbrough warns against crowning Roy Barnes until the votes are counted.
  • SMN: Roy Barnes’ charm offensive might not be enough.
  • And beyond:

  • WSJ: FBI seeks to target lone extremists.
  • WP: Obama’s muted response to Iranian election reflects a diplomatic dilemma for the U.S.
  • NYT: Providing Cell phones for the poor.
  • For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

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