Topeka A legislative mistake in the just-approved state budget could result in court closings and furloughs of court employees, Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Davis said Tuesday.
If the Legislature and Gov. Mark Parkinson fail to address the problem early in the 2010 legislative session, which starts in January, then the state court system may be forced to furlough without pay 1,589 non-judicial employees for one week per month through June 2010, Davis said.
That could include furloughing probation officers, court clerks, administrators, court reporters and other personnel. A provision in the Kansas Constitution prohibits reducing the salaries of judges during their term in office.
In the $13 billion budget approved last week, the Legislature cut the judicial branch by $11 million, under the assumption that the funds could be made up through surcharges on docket fees, Davis said. But the surcharge was capped at $10 per fee in other legislation, he said.
“There is no way that it can cover the additional cut,” Davis said in a letter to all judicial branch employees. The $11 million cut was in addition to a 2.75 percent across-the-board cut to all state agencies.
Parkinson said if the fee increases fail to cover the budget cuts he would work with the judiciary and Legislature to craft a supplemental budget request when the next legislative session starts.
“I do not want the courts furloughing employees. I do not want the courts closed, and if we end up in that position in January, we need to fix it immediately,” Parkinson said.
But if that fails, Davis warned: “It is anticipated our non-judicial employees could be sent home for approximately one week per month for the rest of the fiscal year.”
Davis said the Supreme Court would not order any furloughs at this time, in hopes the situation can be remedied in January. In his letter to employees, he said, “Delaying the furloughs until the last prudent moment maximizes access to the courts and maximizes your and your family’s ability to prepare for the impact on your personal finances.”