Ever ask yourself what the Minnesota judicial branch would look like with a fifth less funding? Make your way over to the State Office Building in St. Paul tomorrow morning and find out.
Representatives from the state court system will be at the meeting of the Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee to present two scenarios: The impact of a 15 percent and 20 percent cut to the state courts budget. Lorie Gildea, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Matthew Johnson, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals and others will testify. Lawmakers have asked state agencies, branches and organizations to sing for their supper in preparation to balance the state’s projected $5 billion budget deficit.
Republicans control both bodies of the legislature and are sticking to their promise of balancing the budget on cuts alone, said John Kostouros, the communications director for the state’s judicial branch. Kostouros said cuts at the 15 percent or 20 percent level would be devastating to the courts.
“I don’t know how they are going to do this. The House ands Senate leadership are committed to this idea that they are going to do everything through cuts and not going to cut K-12 [education],” he said. “For us [a 15 or 20 percent cut] would be severe. It would be 700 or 800 employees and closing as many as a third of the state courthouses.”
He acknowledged that funding cuts were likely in the next budget cycle, which will mean more layoffs. The judicial branch employs about 2,500 people and is holding another approximately 250 positions open to save money.
“We are working very hard right now across the street [at the Capitol] and all over the state to help people see the wisdom of adequately funding the justice system as a priority,” Kostouros said.