The Devil’s in the Details: Justice and Public Safety

The Devil’s in the Details: Justice and Public Safety

The Devil's in the Details

This article is part of a series contrasting budget cut options identified by NC General Assembly joint appropriations subcommittees with revenue options that would preserve decades of public investment in the economic and social advancement of North Carolina. Click here for other articles in the series so far.

Legislative leaders announced their intent to cut $229.7 million from the state’s justice and public safety budget next year, a $98.5 million increase over the $131.2 million in cuts proposed in the Governor’s budget. The full recommended continuation budget for justice and public safety — which funds State court operations, State prisons, and juvenile justice centers and programs — is $2.3 billion, making it the third largest State budget category after education and health and human services.

The spending cuts below[1] represent a selection of “options” under legislative consideration, which are presented to illustrate the severity of a “cuts-only” approach to balancing the North Carolina budget. A balanced approach to the budget shortfall would include raising revenue[2], which would assist in ensuring all North Carolinians have access to legal representation, continue providing cost-saving alternatives to civil and criminal litigation, and preserve hundreds of existing public safety jobs.

The legislature is considering the
following budget cuts …
… but instead of making cuts,
they could:
$4.0 million
Eliminate 80 court counselor jobs within the juvenile justice system
$4.0 million
Repeal sales tax exemption for artisanal bakery products
Cut state support for the Guardian Ad Litem program, which trains volunteers to work as court advocates and liaisons for abused and neglected children
$1.0 million
Eliminate sales tax exemption for interior design services bundled with the sale of household and office furniture
$5.4 million
Close additional prisons, eliminating 203 jobs
$5.5 million
Eliminate sales tax exemption for electricity and business property specifically for Internet Data Centers
$6.5 million
Eliminate family court, dispute resolution and custody mediation, all programs that help families settle legal issues outside of court, reducing caseload burdens and thereby saving money; would eliminate 90 jobs
$6.1 million
Repeal 2% discount for tobacco dealers and distributors for filing and paying taxes on time
$2.1 million
Eliminate Sentencing Services, a program that matches offenders with social services in order to reduce over-reliance on incarceration. This cut would also eliminate 12 jobs
$2.7 million
Repeal 2% discount for alcohol wholesalers and importers for filing and paying taxes on time
Total Cuts: $18.1 million
Total Public Safety Jobs Lost: 385
Total Revenue: $19.3 million
Total Public Safety Jobs Lost: Zero

— Brenna Burch and Edwin McLenaghan, Public Policy Analysts, NC Budget and Tax Center


[1] Joint Appropriations Subcommittee budget cut options for the Justice & Public Safety budget are available at,%202011%20Meeting/Joint_JPS_Reduction_Options_2011-03-23.pdf

[2] Revenue options are based on NC Budget & Tax Center calculations, data provided by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), and the NC Department of Revenue’s Biennial Tax Expenditure Report available at