That the Sedgwick County District Court has started a food pantry for employees who can’t afford to buy enough food should infuriate you. The inability to pay court workers a living wage is remarkable.
That point was clear during a House hearing Monday, where Sedgwick County Chief Judge James Fleetwood made the case for pay raises for judicial workers — $10.3 million for non-judges, $7.5 million for judges.
Starting salaries for justice system employees often are below the federal poverty level for a family of four. About a third of Sedgwick County court workers have second jobs, far above the state average.
But there are no easy fixes. Court employees are just one group of underpaid state workers. Lawmakers aren’t able to walk around the Statehouse without being reminded that the failed tax-cut experiment of former Gov. Sam Brownback created large budget gaps and has put the state behind in fairly compensating many groups of public employees. The 2017 vote to bring taxes closer to 2012 levels created a surplus this year, but needs are wide-ranging and an expensive school-funding formula still needs to be created.
Still, let’s hope legislators find a path to take care of state workers who shouldn’t have to rely on a makeshift food pantry and the kindness of others to put food on the table.