Legislators avoid financial solution

Tuesday Chief Justice Robert E. Davis warned that cuts in the Kansas judiciary budget could mean up to 30 days of statewide court closures and furloughs for nonjudicial employees during fiscal 2010, which starts June 30.
Davis told the Associated Press the only way to avoid that would be if lawmakers were to approve additional funds in January. Legislators adjourned Saturday with the problem unsolved. The judiciary originally asked for nearly $114 million in state funds for fiscal 2010, which was whittled to $98 million by the time lawmakers sent the final spending bill to Gov. Parkinson.
Locally, Magistrate Judge Thomas Saxon said the pain caused by funding cuts would be felt here as much as anywhere.
As the recession has deepened, and state revenue shortfalls have led to cutbacks such as those sustained by the judiciary, the predictable aside has been more people are having problems keeping up with bills, Saxton noted. He said the number of filings to resolve medical and other bills have escalated. People continue to suffer illnesses and physical and other problems, regardless of their financial footing.
Saxton said it was difficult to keep up with court demands as it was and would become more so if courts were shuttered part time and support personnel were sent home.

THE JUDICIARY’S woes certainly aren’t minuscule, and they are symptomatic of what is occurring throughout agencies that depend on money from Topeka to provide comprehensive services for all of the state’s citizens.
Problems with state aid felt by school districts have been well-documented, in USD 257 where LaHarpe Elementary School was closed and teachers were laid off and elsewhere throughout Kansas.
Before the economy soured, Bob Chase, director of the Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center, often pleaded with legislators for more funding to serve Kansans with emotional and psychological needs. The unfortunate outcome now is that he and others working in mental health have even more seeking refuge, in large measure because of anxiety generated by financial problems. Yet, they have less resources at hand.
The solution, had legislators had the courage to face reality head on, was to vote at least some modest tax increases to shield education and those in vulnerable circumstances. Instead, they cut funds and services, including reductions that likely will prompt local tax increases, so they can boast about “holding the line on taxes.”
The line they really are holding is one looped over a limb and dangerously close to attaching itself to the collective neck of Kansans.

— Bob Johnson