Furlough fear — Tax plan, budget woes mean more stress on court system

4/16/2014

The court system in Kansas already is stretched thin.

The court system in Kansas already is stretched thin.

And now, state court officials say they're unsure whether a budget approved this year by the Kansas Legislature would allow them to avoid employee furloughs.

Lawmakers sent a budget to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback that makes up $2 million of a shortfall of $8.25 million, which the court system says should be fully funded to meet its needs.

Extra filing fees also were approved in the budget, and supporters claim those fees could produce $4 million to $6.2 million during the fiscal year. But the first $3.1 million of the extra fee revenue reportedly would go to a new electronic filing system, not toward reducing the shortfall.

It left a spokeswoman for the Kansas Supreme Court to note it was too early to say whether the new fees would help avoid employee furloughs.

Such uncertainty understandably is unsettling for court employees, and should be for Kansans who depend on their services, as a manpower shortage would hinder citizen access to court systems.

Criminal matters would be delayed, and jail crowding would worsen as defendants spend more time waiting for trials and hearings, at a cost to counties.

Other problems could come in extended delays for small claims and some civil cases as more pressing criminal and child welfare cases rightly receive priority.

While all public entities have an obligation to streamline their operations and utilize taxpayer dollars in a prudent way, the breaking point comes when insufficient resources curb or eliminate the ability of vital programs to work.

It's even worse knowing the governor and his allies pushed through massive tax breaks for the wealthy that will limit state resources moving forward.

That mess will go well beyond the court system, of course. We can expect more of the same troubling fallout as state revenues evaporate and become insufficient to maintain various essential services.

Seeing state workers face the prospect of being furloughed shouldn't sit well with any Kansan, as many stand to be affected.

All deserve better than the trouble generated by an atrocious tax plan.

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