In annual address to lawmakers, Alaska chief justice urges caution with budget cuts
Alaska’s Supreme Court is warning lawmakers that cutting too deep this session could have drastic and harmful consequences on the state’s court system. In his annual State of the Judiciary address, Chief Justice Craig Stowers urged lawmakers to take swift action on a long-term budget plan this year.
Stowers said cuts made in the last two years have already taken a toll on the system, causing longer wait times for trials and judgments. Court employees have taken mandatory furloughs and a 4 percent pay cut, according to Stowers, who said he’s now concerned about employee morale.
“Many of our employees are clerical employees at or near the bottom of the state pay scales. Some have to work several jobs to make ends meet for their families,” Stowers told the Legislature. “Thus I believe that it is critically important to pay attention to the employees’ well-being and to actively demonstrate that we are doing all that we can under the circumstances to support them.”
As another cost-saving measure, Stowers said the courts have decided not to replace outgoing judges in several rural communities. Stowers is also proposing a 3.5 percent reduction in the court system’s budget.
“I must warn, however, that a greater than 3.5 percent reduction will have a drastic impact on the court system’s ability to provide the core justice services that we are required by law to perform, and will require draconian reductions that will harm the broad cross section of Alaskans and businesses and government entities that daily demand our services,” Stowers said.
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