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Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Legislative budget impasse will cause court closings, furloughs, Chief Justice Nuss says

April 4, 2012

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Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss on Wednesday announces five days of court closings and employee furloughs because of a state budget impasse.

Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss on Wednesday announces five days of court closings and employee furloughs because of a state budget impasse.

— Kansans won’t have access to the state judicial system for five days because of the budget meltdown in the Legislature.

Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss on Wednesday said he would order Kansas courts shut down and 1,500 employees furloughed without pay.

The closings and furloughs are set for Friday, April 13, and then every other Friday on April 27, May 11, May 25 and June 8.

The action is necessary, Nuss said, because the Legislature adjourned last week for its annual break without approving a $1.4 million supplemental appropriation for the judicial branch.

Because of a drop-off in case filing fees, the judiciary doesn’t have enough money to meet payroll through the fiscal year, which ends June 30, he said. The furloughed workers will essentially be taking a 10 percent pay cut for five pay periods.

“The court has looked at a number of available options and, frankly, all of them are lousy,” Nuss said.

“The Supreme Court simply believes it has no real choice but to act now, rather than face the uncertainties of what may happen when the Legislature returns,” he added.

The Legislature reconvenes April 25 for its wrap-up session with a heavy agenda that includes the state budget, proposed tax cuts, redistricting, school finance and other items.

House speaker says closings unnecessary

On Friday, legislators failed to approve a supplemental budget when a deal fell through at the last minute. House Republican leaders balked at the proposal because of a dispute over school funding.

Nuss and other court officials repeatedly warned legislators that without an appropriation by March 31 closings and furloughs would occur.

But House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, on Wednesday said courts could use other internal funds to avoid closings.

“The court’s decision to furlough, due to budget restraints is, according to our budget staff, unnecessary,” O’Neal said.

O’Neal said the court system had funds available to manage cash flow and noted that Nuss had already told the Legislature that some of those funds were being tapped to cover shortfalls.

But Nuss said the court system’s funds are dedicated for specific purposes that have been mandated by the Legislature. He said the House has made clear that it doesn’t want the courts overturning how the Legislature allocates funds.

At least 40 affected in Douglas County

Nuss said that on furlough days judges would be working in their offices and handling essential, emergency situations. Judges will not see a pay cut because under the Kansas Constitution their salaries cannot be reduced unless all state officers’ salaries are reduced.

Chief Douglas County District Court Judge Robert Fairchild said the furloughs would affect at least 40 employees at the Douglas County Courthouse.

“I think it’s very frustrating when a branch of government has to shut its door because another branch of government isn’t dealing with the issues there,” Fairchild said. “I know it will be frustrating for people whose cases will be continued.”

Nuss said if legislators and Gov. Sam Brownback approve a budget quickly when the Legislature reconvenes, Nuss could rescind the remaining furlough days.

But, Nuss said, he didn’t want to wait to take action. “If we gamble on getting the supplemental appropriation when the Legislature returns, but something arises that prevents it, then the impact on our employees is more severe over the time that is left,” he said.

In a prepared statement, Brownback said he was confident legislators would reach a budget agreement during the wrap-up session. But Brownback steered clear of the judicial funding issue, saying, “We do not foresee this short delay in the budget agreement affecting any services the executive branch provides.”

Budget breakdown

The Legislature adjourned last week after a budget breakdown.

House and Senate negotiators appeared ready to approve a deal for current year supplemental appropriations. Then House Republican leaders backed off signing the drafted budget.

While both the House and Senate agreed to allocate $24.6 million to public schools in the current year to cover unexpected costs, the sides disagreed on the method of funding.

The House wanted to take the money from the transportation department, while the Senate and Brownback proposed using general state revenues.

Senate negotiators wanted to defer a decision on the source of the school funds until the wrap-up session. But House Appropriations Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, said that would have put the House at a disadvantage because if no agreement could be reached, the funding method would have defaulted to Brownback’s position, which was the same as the Senate’s.

On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said, “We must properly fund the court system so that every Kansan has access to justice. There is no excuse for the Legislature failing to pass a supplemental appropriation in its regular session so that these furloughs and closures would have been avoided.”

Some legislators, including Davis, have said House Republican leaders were using the budget impasse to create political leverage on other issues, such as redistricting. O’Neal has denied that assertion.

In 2010, courts had four days of employee furloughs as the state faced a budget crisis. Now, however, the state has a projected an ending balance for the current fiscal year of approximately $500 million.

On Wednesday, Nuss said he didn’t want to criticize the legislators but added, “I hope they act quickly to fund the judicial branch of our government.”

Comments

kugrad2003 2 years, 8 months ago

Congratulations to the Legislature. You've now managed to anger more state employees with your ridiculous actions. I hope you realize how little many judicial branch employees make. You need to work together to get it right, not just for these employees, but for all the citizens of Kansas!

kernal 2 years, 8 months ago

Add "and incompetency" to kugrad2003's posting and that completes the picture.

trinity 2 years, 8 months ago

"incompetency" meaning whom, kernal?

kernal 2 years, 8 months ago

my rewrite would be: ...with your incompetency and ridiculous actions...

Just out of curiosity, to whom did you think I was referring?

larrygin 2 years, 8 months ago

This is going too far and is just the beginning!

I would like to organize a rally (with picket signs) on the Capital grounds on April 13. This will be a civil organized event! I will provide 10 picket signs. Please rally with me!

Capital Grounds front lawn by Lincoln @ 11:00 am April 13th 2012

Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 8 months ago

You might make better use of your time by doing something like seeking employment.

larrygin 2 years, 8 months ago

I am a single father of three. I work 8 to 5 Monday thru Friday. I will be taking April 13 off work to support a cause I fell is very important.

progressive_thinker 2 years, 8 months ago

I guess we can expect nothing less--making a negative insinuation in a total absence of supporting facts.

progressive_thinker 2 years, 8 months ago

My comment was about cant have it both ways. Did you mistake me for nb? My current avatar is not as good as my "fox lies" one......

progressive_thinker 2 years, 8 months ago

Bringing back the Croagh Patrick avatar.......

chootspa 2 years, 8 months ago

Anyone got a list of no voters? It would be convenient to see it circulated widely. Brinkmanship should come at a price beyond what we citizens have to pay.

question4u 2 years, 8 months ago

"House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, said courts had other funds to use to avoid closings, but Nuss said that was not the case."

Which one is upright and honest, and which is a baldfaced lier? Hint: Look to precedent.

Tracy Rogers 2 years, 8 months ago

Most school districts have had the same thing as furloughs the past several years due to the legislators failing to fund schools properly. When schools shorten the school year it's putting all the hourly people out of work.

Tracy Rogers 2 years, 8 months ago

Not sure where you're from, but around here there's been no raises given for 3 years now to teachers.

Horace 2 years, 8 months ago

It's too bad these guys can't just sit down over some margarita's at Carlos O'Kelly's to work things out.

Jan Rolls 2 years, 8 months ago

They ought to not pay these jerks until it is resolved. This whole state with brownie and these republicans is the biggest mess in history.

chootspa 2 years, 8 months ago

The idea would work better if the jerks weren't getting paid by third parties like AFP.

Mike1949 2 years, 8 months ago

Told you that the republicans are destroying this state. No one listens even as Kansas slips another notch towards redundancy!

Michael LoBurgio 2 years, 8 months ago

To many kochs in the kansas house and senate taking over the state of ks.

kochmoney 2 years, 8 months ago

Who needs law and order? Just tighten your belt and let the free market decide who is innocent and guilty of crimes.

jjt 2 years, 8 months ago

Blankety, blank, Democrats messing with....... No wait, aren't the Republicans running things at the moment?

texburgh 2 years, 8 months ago

"But House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, on Wednesday said courts could use other internal funds to avoid closings."

Yes, Mike's favorite excuse for ignoring the state's obligation - you have unencumbered funds.

Every agency should just spend their "unencumbered funds" - you know the money set aside for emergencies or earmarked by the legislature for special purposes or set aside for start up costs at the start of a fiscal year while the agency waits for the first federal dollars or state dollars to come in.

Of course, there is one large pile of truly unencumbered funds that Mike believes is sacred: the state's ending balance. The state is now sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars due to better than anticipated tax collections. The whole budget mess was caused because Mike refused to spend $24 million to fulfill the state's obligation to schools for this year unless he could raid the highway fund to do it. The Governor and the Senate both wanted to use part of the $500 million or so dollars in the state's ending balance.

Look up hypocrite in the dictionary - you'll find a photo of Mike O'Neal.

Pastor_Bedtime 2 years, 8 months ago

At least they spent their time productively decorating their new prayer room and circling their wagons around women's wombs.

larrygin 2 years, 8 months ago

Furlough Brownback support your civil servant!

I would like to organize a rally (with picket signs) on the Capital grounds on April 13. This will be a civil organized event! I will provide 10 picket signs. Please rally with me!

Capital Grounds front lawn by Lincoln @ 11:00am - 2:00pm April 13th 2012

trinity 2 years, 8 months ago

Well larrygin I'd love to join your rally...but I have to wonder, will there be free cookies and/or cake for us furloughed state employees?? I'll have to get busy on a budget to assure I can afford fuel to GET to Topeka in the first place...

larrygin 2 years, 8 months ago

I hope you can make it. We need all the votes we can get. Bring a sack lunch!

jafs 2 years, 8 months ago

How on earth you can blame Obama for the failure of the KS legislature is beyond me.

kochmoney 2 years, 8 months ago

House Teapartians failing to vote for a standard budgetary issue is a failure of the recession (that started under Bush)? Does the cognitive dissonance hurt? It really should hurt to twist your mind into that much of a pretzel.

Centerville 2 years, 8 months ago

Spare me the dramatics. This just looks like entry-level political posturing.

George Lippencott 2 years, 8 months ago

Well we have two sides to this issue. One says the courts have resources. The other is hurting people through furloughs. After all it is the courts that overran their budget.

Where is truth? Are there funds? LJW what is truth?

Intestinally the legislature is back in session in three weeks and will hopefully do something to fix the problem (the funds are there). Why must the first furlough be before that opportunity?

It is a shame that public employees are subject to such blatant political games. Furloughs, if required, can be made after May 1st (if still required).

Tracy Rogers 2 years, 8 months ago

Doesn't the budget year end in June? If so, that doesn't leave much time depending on when the legislators finally get around to setting a new budget. Looks to me like the days are being spread out so as not to have more than one furlough day in a pay period.

George Lippencott 2 years, 8 months ago

If I am not mistaken the 1.4 M needed is f9r this year not next year. The courts overspent. The Speaker claims there is a fund with $8m in it to cover any shortfall between now and whenthe legislature passes the bill (end of month) with an add to this year.

If $1.4 m is 5 days it would seem we could wait for May before hurting people even if there were no more money.

Katara 2 years, 8 months ago

FTA, "But Nuss said the court system’s funds are dedicated for specific purposes that have been mandated by the Legislature. He said the House has made clear that it doesn’t want the courts overturning how the Legislature allocates funds."

The funds that O'Neal claims are there are already mandated by the Legislature for specific purposes. This means that the Court cannot simply take the monies from those purposes and use it to cover shortfalls.

wastewatcher 2 years, 8 months ago

Lets have a public hearing with Nuss and O'Neal's budget staff under oath and find out where the truth is.. Notice Nuss has not denied O'Neal's statements and I would like to see him comment on the specifics, and quit generalizing. The LJ World should also quit editorializing unless it has the facts and I believe they are to lazy to dig out the truth.

Jefferson_County 2 years, 8 months ago

The courts didn't overspend. Go back and read the article more carefully.

George Lippencott 2 years, 8 months ago

OK what do you cal it when you need more money than appropriated??

Jefferson_County 2 years, 8 months ago

'From the above article "The action is necessary, Nuss said, because the Legislature adjourned last week for its annual break without approving a $1.4 million supplemental appropriation for the judicial branch. Because of a drop-off in case filing fees, the judiciary doesn’t have enough money to meet payroll through the fiscal year, which ends June 30, he said."

The courts did not overspend, revenues from fees were less than expected. The legislature, instead of actually funding (or appropriating) their whole budget, expects them to come up with fund from court fees. Again, fee shortage, not overspending. I believe the way it works is that instead of appropriating funds for the budget, the agreement is to use funds from fees and make up any shortfall in the supplemental appropriation process, which by the way, happens every year. It is not a straightforward, one-time budget process for state government.

George Lippencott 2 years, 8 months ago

ok. The courts did not plan properly and are short. The legislature has put the additional funds required in the proposed budget not yet passed. They argue that the courts have remaining fee money in excess of what is required and that they should spend that while waiting for the appropriation. That is not the legislatures problem and somebody is not being honest.

Katara 2 years, 8 months ago

FTA, "But Nuss said the court system’s funds are dedicated for specific purposes that have been mandated by the Legislature. He said the House has made clear that it doesn’t want the courts overturning how the Legislature allocates funds."

The funds that O'Neal claims are there are already mandated by the Legislature for specific purposes. This means that the Court cannot simply take the monies from those purposes and use it to cover shortfalls. It also makes it the Legislature's problem since they were the ones who mandated that those funds be used only for whatever specific purposes (article does not provide clarification as to what they are) they want the Courts to use them for.

kochmoney 2 years, 8 months ago

Why are you trying so hard to blame the courts for something the legislature did? This is standard stuff. The courts do not have control over their own budget. The legislature makes a budget using last year's court fees as an estimate, and they allocate supplemental funds when their estimate falls short. Hey, didn't the legislature also pass a law that reduced the extra fees places like Douglas county were charging for some traffic offenses? Hmmm.

So tell me again, why are you so insistent "Moderate" on blaming the courts for something they don't control?

George Lippencott 2 years, 8 months ago

Because I am not sure the legislature is guilty in this case. If the courts have funds then they should spend them awaiting action at the end of the month. There is nothing really different this year from any other year.

George Lippencott 2 years, 8 months ago

Part of the process. Not a vacation.. There are many bills and this gives the governor and staff time to decide how to react to them while giving the legislature time to override if the governor vetoes.

kochmoney 2 years, 8 months ago

Because they used to have to go plant crops.

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 8 months ago

Everyone who lives in Kansas should be completely disgusted with the GOP dominated legislature.

We are projecting a $500 million year end closing balance. We should have a closing balance when current needs have been met. This money should be used to fix:

1) Fixing KPERS 2) Raises for state employees as it has been 6 years since the last raise. 3) Funding for public schools and universities 4) Funding for social services

There should be no tax cuts until these things are done. There should be no ending balance until these things are done.

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