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Chief justice calls salary increases 'imperative' for court staff

SOJ Jensen.png
Chief Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court Steven R. Jensen.

The chief justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court wants state lawmakers to make employee salary increases a priority this session.

Justice Steven Jensen made the request Wednesday during his annual State of the Judiciary speech.

Jensen says the court system is not immune to staffing shortages. He says wage and inflationary pressure in the economy do not appear to be temporary.

Jensen says one common theme came from circuit courts across the state when the Unified Judicial System put its budget together for the coming fiscal year.

“They said we’re having a difficult time finding applicants and we’re losing good people to higher paying jobs,” Jensen says. “In our fiscal year budget request to the governor, we limited ongoing budget requests to needed increases in employee salaries. It is imperative that we take care of our existing staff if we expect to maintain excellence within the courts.”

Governor Kristi Noem is proposing 6 percent increases to state employee salaries this year. She calls the increase unprecedented. Inflation rose 7 percent in the last year.

Jensen calls the governor’s proposal a significant step to providing more competitive pay for judicial staff.

“I support the governor’s budget request and ask you to make salary increases a priority this legislative session,” Jensen says.

Chief Justice Jensen is also requesting legislators appropriate $5 million for security upgrades for courtrooms across the state.

—Editor's note: SDPB employees are state employees and would be affected by any salary increases.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.