The Kentucky court system, which has already laid off 47 people last fall, may be in for more drastic measures this year, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader. If the courts don’t get a $76 million increase in funding, Kentucky may reduce courthouse hours or take other steps. Gov. Steve Beshear has recommended an extra $50 million for the courts, both to make up for past budget cuts and to pay for the 38 new courthouses that will be opening in the next two years, a vast building initiative that began before the current financial crisis.
Since 2000, $880 million has been appropriated for new courthouses, part of a program designed by former Chief Justice Joseph E. Lambert aimed at putting a new courthouse in all 120 counties. The state must start paying for the courthouses, or the counties will default on the bonds. So the court system’s budget will have to be cut in other areas. But the judicial branch’s financial conundrum – in the midst of one of Kentucky’s worst fiscal crises ever – is raising questions about the politically popular but expensive courthouse construction program.