by Matthew Hamilton // Times Union
Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed legislation late Saturday that would have shifted the cost of expensive legal services for the poor from counties to the state in the coming years.
Cuomo wrote in his veto message the legislation ultimately would require that the state spend more than $800 million per year to fully reimburse counties for all expenses associated with non-criminal legal defense work, including legal services in family and surrogate court.
“This bill would do little more than transfer to the taxpayers of this state an entirely new obligation to pay for any and all existing expenses related to general defense legal work, far beyond legal representation of indigent criminal defendants,” Cuomo wrote.
Currently, the state pays roughly 10 percent of the 2010 spending levels for indigent legal services for each county currently.
The legislation called for the state to assume control of indigent legal service costs by 2023, with the state assuming 25 percent of costs starting April 1, which is the beginning of the next fiscal year.
The governor proposed modifications to the bill that he contended would have led to state funding for costs associated with extending reforms statewide, with fiscal oversight through the state Division of Budget.