Alaska Supreme Court Urges Legislature to Restore COLA to Court System Employees
By MARY KAUFFMAN
July 03, 2019
The first was $1,756,300 that the legislature appropriated for a 3% cost of living allowances for the Alaska Court Systems non-union, non-judicial staff, designed to match union contract pay increases approved by the legislature for similar state employees in other government branches. The second was $337,700 of the legislature’s original $7,217,200 appropriation for Alaska's appellate courts.
According to the Alaska Supreme Court's statement, the second veto by the governor carried a statement explaining it was in response to the governor’s disagreement with a recent supreme court decision.
The Alaska Supreme Court responded to Alaska’s recent financial crisis by recognizing that the court system has a duty to be a good steward of the public’s money by proposing, with legislature making, significant reductions to the court system’s operating budget, reductions that resulted in the closure of all courts statewide on Friday afternoons and a consequent reduction of the Court System's employees salaries by 4% over the past three years, a cut not shared by the other two branches of government.
The purpose of the statement by Alaska Supreme Court was to urge the legislature to restore the FY2020 3% increase in cost of living allowances and return the court employees to equal footing with employees of the executive and legislative branches.
Quoting the statement, "Alaska, like the country as a whole, has a system of government with three co-equal branches. At its most basic, this means that the legislature makes the law, the governor enforces the law, and the supreme court, when faced with a constitutional challenge to a law, is required to decide it. Legislators, governors, and all other Alaskans certainly have the right to their own opinions about the constitutionality of government action, but ultimately it is the courts that are required to decide what the constitution mandates. In a democracy based on majority rule, it is important that laws be interpreted fairly and consistently. We assure all Alaskans that the Alaska Court System will continue to render independent court decisions based on the rule of law, without regard to the politics of the day."
"Finally, we reiterate to our dedicated court staff that we value your extraordinary efforts to serve Alaska’s citizens each and every day," quoting the statement.
Joel H. Bolger is the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court and the Justices are Daniel E. Winfree, Craig Stowers, Peter J. Maassen and Susan M. Carney.
Reported & Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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