By Laura Garcia
TAC Deputy Legislative Director
The Texas Indigent Defense Commission recently submitted its legislative appropriations request
to the Legislative Budget Board for the next biennium (fiscal years 2014 and 2015), asking the state to provide an additional $154 million in funding for indigent defense costs incurred by counties. This upcoming legislative session marks the first time the Indigent Defense Commission has submitted its own legislative appropriations request separate from the Office of Court Administration (OCA). While the Commission remains administratively attached to OCA, a bill passed during the 82nd Legislative Session (HB 1754), authorized the Commission to submit its own request for appropriations.
In its request, the Commission cites the substantial rising costs counties bear in funding indigent defense. Since passage of the Fair Defense Act, indigent defense costs have increased 120 percent from $91.4 million in 2001 to $198.4 million in 2011. However, state grants derived from dedicated funds have covered only a small proportion of those costs. In FY 2011, the state funded only about $33.4 million of the total statewide indigent defense costs, while counties contributed approximately $165 million (about 83 percent of the total costs).
An additional $154 million in state funds (about $77 million for each fiscal year in the next biennium) would assist counties tremendously in offsetting the costs of this significant unfunded mandate. The additional funding request must still work its way through the rigorous legislative appropriations process in the upcoming legislative session. TAC legislative staff will provide further updates about its progress as it becomes available.