Attorney General Kobach to request $1 million budget increase to fill prosecutor vacancies
AG’s criminal division authorized to employ 10 prosecutors, but down to three
Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach plans to request a $1 million budget increase from the Legislature in response to challenges filling 23 attorney vacanices in the office, including seven criminal prosecution positions. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach plans to request Friday restoration of $650,000 cut from the office’s budget two years ago and approval of a $375,000 increase to hire attorneys to handle crimes related to unauthorized sports gambling.
Kobach, a Republican sworn into office in January, said he would propose the House General Government Budget Committee make use of a portion of the state’s revenue surplus to rescind the 10% across-the-board reduction implemented by Gov. Laura Kelly in July 2021.
He said the attorney general’s office experienced difficulty retaining and recruiting attorneys due to erosion of salary competitiveness with county prosecutor offices and private law firms. Twenty-three of the 33 unfilled positions in the Kansas attorney general’s office were designated for lawyers. In other words, he said, one-third of 65 full-time equivalent attorney positions in his office were not filled.
In the past year, Kobach said, the criminal division lost seven prosecutors and was operating with only three. His office was compelled to limit the divison’s scope of cases to murders and the most serious child sex offenses. In the past six months, the attorney general’s office turned down more than 20 cases.
“That is hurting the state,” Kobach said. “I am not in any way blaming the previous attorney geneal for this. The attorney general cannot solve this problem alone. It is a systemic problem that will take both the Legislature and the attorney general working together to solve it.”
Kobach replaced Derek Schmidt as the state’s top law enforcement officer. Schmidt was an unsuccessful GOP candidate for governor in 2022.
Kobach said the starting wage for a prosecutor in the attorney general’s office in Kansas begins at about $80,000. Here are over-the-border starting salaries for assistant attorneys general: Colorado, $176,000; Oklahoma, $112,000; and Missouri, $105,000. A new, not-yet-licensed attorney could accept a position at a large Kansas City law firm for a salary of $180,000, he said.
“Missouri and Kansas are in direct competition for the same pool of talent,” Kobach said. “If we are not able to even come close to their starting salaries, this office will continue to be understaffed.”
The $375,000 in Kobach budget appeal would go to the office’s fraud and abuse litigation division. It would support hiring of four attorneys to handle investigation and prosecution of criminal offenses related to legalized sports wagering in Kansas.
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