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Archive for Saturday, February 23, 2002

Panel endorses infusion of cash for state courts

February 23, 2002

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— State courts would get extra money immediately to meet payrolls but would face another funding shortage in the next fiscal year under a measure endorsed Friday by a Senate panel.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee, in a report on the proposed budget it endorsed for the judiciary, noted the "dire" financial outlook for Kansas' court system in fiscal 2003, which starts July 1.

"Sympathy's nice, but it sure doesn't help you pay the bills," Chief Justice Kay McFarland said after the committee approved the funding plan on a voice vote.

The committee approved a proposal for immediate $600,000 infusion for the judiciary's budget, money that McFarland said was needed to meet the current fiscal year's final payroll. The additional funds would raise the judiciary's appropriation for this year to $79.6 million.

For fiscal 2003, the committee endorsed a proposed budget of $81.2 million, which McFarland and other court officials have said would be $3.6 million less than will be needed to meet payrolls.

The committee's budget proposal was to be part of the proposed budget for all of state government that the full Senate will debate later.

If the state raises new revenue, lawmakers should look at putting more money into the judiciary, the committee said in its report.

"Since we don't have it, we can't put it in," said Chairman Steve Morris, R-Hugoton. "The courts are one of those essential services we provide the citizens. We have to maintain a viable judicial system."

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