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Higher fees proposed for Oklahoma's courts

(Oklahoma City-AP) -- A $5 surcharge on state court fees could be the answer to the budget shortfalls in Oklahoma's district court system.

A 2.5% pay cut for non-elected employees, a hiring freeze and a severe cutback in travel is the Oklahoma Supreme Court's response to an order last fall from the Office of State Finance to reduce spending by $875,000 during this fiscal year.

Mayes County Special Judge Gary Dean believes Oklahoma should consider a $5 surcharge on court fees like Kansas did when its judicial system faced a $3.6-million shortfall.

Kansas court officials say the surcharge kept the Kansas courts from shutting down.

Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Joseph Watt says raising court fees in Oklahoma would have to be decided by the legislature.

Court officials say they have to try innovative ways to get money during the upcoming legislature as more shortfalls are predicted.
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