TRENTON – Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Barnes said he welcomes the idea of increasing filing fees at state courts and using money from the higher than expected income tax revenues to fund the cash-strapped Legal Services of New Jersey.
“I personally would,” Barnes said in response to using some of the estimated $511 million in additional income tax revenue that state Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff said the state is expected to see. “I would absolutely push hard for that.”
Barnes also said Monday he would work with Judge Glen Grant, an administrative director of New Jersey Courts, to look into increasing various court filing fees to generate more revenue. Former Chief Justice Deborah Poritz, who was at the Assembly committee hearing, also called for increasing court filing fees.
Barnes added that ultimately, Gov. Chris Christie has to restore state funding to make any real meaningful impact on LSNJ’s ability to continue providing prompt services.
LSNJ, a non-profit group that provides legal aid to residents who can’t afford legal representation, currently has an annual budget of about $47 million, of which about $19.9 million comes from the state. The amount of state funding has fallen 35 percent since 2008, when it received some $29.6 million.
LSNJ has correspondingly shrunk its workforce – largely made up of lawyers, legal aides, and secretaries – from 720 to 490.