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State attorney prepares for 2008-09 budget cuts

State attorney prepares for 2008-09 budget cuts

By BOB McCLURE – Article published on Tuesday, June 24, 2008

 SEMINOLE – Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe says his office will be affected heavily by budget cuts for the upcoming year.

 McCabe, who addressed members of the Seminole Chamber of Commerce at its monthly luncheon June 19, said his office will lose 65 out of 485 positions. Many of those are vacant positions that will remain unfilled.

 Most of the jobs cuts are coming about due to a $4.7 million cut in funding from a $30 million budget.

 “It’s a significant number of positions we’ll be carrying closed,” he said. “What it means to the average citizen is little but to the victims of crime it will be more noticeable because it will take longer for their cases to come to court.”

 McCabe was asked if the budget cuts would result in more plea bargains and he said it could.

 “I hope not,” said McCabe. “But because of the press of the workload it may occur.”

 McCabe said his office is now operating in a “new era” where state legislators make across the board cuts, which affect all levels of government. The result, he said, is making it more difficult to recruit assistant state attorneys.

 “My lawyers are carrying caseloads much higher than they should,” he said. “Plus, there have been no raises in three years, which causes turnover.”

 McCabe pointed to the starting salary of $43,000 and noted that it is only $2,500 more than a recent advertisement for a Pinellas County Jail correctional officer.

 “I realize in this market he (Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats) has to compete to get them,” said McCabe, who noted that his office is in the same position. “So I look to the legislature and their leaders for help.”

 McCabe also was asked if he believes judges are less qualified now than they used to be.

 “Not in the last 10 to 15 years,” he said. “But going back 30 years, yes. Now it’s become a job for some people who can’t make it in the real world.”