Getting a divorce or adopting a child may take even longer if the state approves budget cuts to Superior Courts that could result in staff furloughs and decreased services.
Gov. Sonny Perdue asked state agencies to slash their budgets by 25 percent so the state can make it through the fiscal year in the black.
Officials are looking to save $274 million from the proposed spending restrictions.
Superior Court systems will find out Friday whether the cuts will be mandatory.
And it could be detrimental if the state goes with the cuts, according to Superior Court Judge Paul Rose, who found out about the cuts through a memo last week.
“I mean, this is incredible,” said Rose, who argued superior courts only account for less than one percent of the entire state budget. “What the governor is proposing would basically shut down the court system, basically, two weeks in the month of June.”
And staff furloughs are on the way if the state doesn’t fund the courts.
The Georgia Supreme Court formally appealed Perdue’s budget cuts, calling it unconstitutional.
“We think the governor has probably exceeded his authority in doing this,” Rose said. “This is something that just caught us totally by surprise because this money has already been legislatively appropriated.”
But there are no other alternatives, according to Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley.
Brantley explained the governor’s office is constitutionally responsible for balancing the budget, which often means making some tough decisions.
“We’re going toward the end of the fiscal year … and we need to make sure we end the year in a positive financial condition,” Brantley said.
Brantley said the last few months have really been unprecedented in terms of revenue development.
He thinks agencies should remember the budget restrictions will only last through June, until the new budget kicks in in July.
But jury trials have already been scheduled and residents with court dates for cases like child support, felony criminal cases can’t wait.
“What this is going to do, it’s going to cause the jails to be backed up. It’s going to cause cases to be delayed. It’s going to cause citizens not be able to access the courts,” Rose said.
The state has already cut 8 percent to the Superior Court system, which is already “barely enough to operate,” according to Rose.
“We’ve tried for six years in the governor’s term to do more with less…at some point though it becomes less with less,” Brantley said.
“If services suffer, which we know it will, it’ll take some creative [management] but we’ll make our way through this,” Brantley said. “This is not the preferred way to go, but this is what’s necessary to make sure we balance the budget.”
President Barack Obama’s stimulus package will also provide added cushion to help offset cuts.
“Where we have stimulus funding available … we will be looking to backfill those cuts with the stimulus funds we’ve earmarked for 2011,” Brantley said.
But the June cuts will still stand.
“We’re still in negotiations with the governor’s office,” Rose said, adding the ultimate decision would still need to go through planning and budget office.
“We just don’t know at this point. We’ve been in discussion with the governor’s office trying to resolve this issue.”