The Florida Legislature may be negotiating how to cut funding to the office of 9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Aramis Ayala — and ironically the less-controversial potential cut to her budget is the bigger of two now moving through committees.
That sorting may begin this week when the House and Senate appropriations committees begin their close looks at the pieces the state budget proposals coming in from their various subcommittees.
State Rep. Scott Plakon, the Altamonte Springs Republican who has been extremely critical of Ayala since she announced her no-death-penalty stance. And when he engineered the line-item, $1.3 million budget cut that wound up included in the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee he made it clear the cut was a result of that stance.
“She’s not prosecuting death penalty cases, so this is essentially the money to be used for death penalty cases,” Plakon said.
Democrats and Ayala’s office have blasted that cut and charged that the Orange County Republican members of that subcommittee — Eric Eisnaugle, Rene Plasencia and Jennifer Sullivan — are putting their own constituents at public safety risk by slashing money for prosecuting criminals.
“The impact of cutting 1.3 million dollars and eliminating 21 positions would severely impact this agency’s ability to effectively prosecute crimes,” Ayala declared in a public statement.
Toward the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice’s budget proposal, there has been very little public criticism. Yet that cut is about $160,000 deeper than Plakon’s plan, at $1.46 million shaved from her budget.
The lack of criticism might start because state Sen. Aaron Bean, chairman of that committee, has made no public criticisms of Ayala and made no overt connections between the cut he is proposing and the state attorney’s position on capital punishment. Instead, Bean, a Jacksonville attorney, characterized his proposed cut as eliminating two programs that were first funded only this year, and which he thinks can’t continue under tight budget restraints now facing the state.
Those two programs, funding for domestic violence and human trafficking, are two programs Ayala cares about a great deal. She campaigned in part on the need for improved prosecution of domestic violence cases.
State Sen. Randolph Bracy of Oakland has promised to try to get the Senate cut removed from the budget.
Either cut is assumed to eliminate 21 positions, and reduce the 9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office budget and staffing back to roughly 2015-16 levels. This year, adding domestic violence and human trafficking prosecution earmarks, the office got $29.4 million, good for 385 employees. Last year the office got $28 million, good for 364 positions.