Archive for Friday, April 29, 2005

State pay raise debate revived; Senate OKs higher judges’ salaries

April 29, 2005


— Senators revived a debate Thursday over Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' proposal to increase state workers' salaries by 2.5 percent, and they approved a $9,000 raise for every Kansas judge.

The pay raise is included in the Senate's version of a bill designed to wrap up budget issues for the year, approved on a 27-13 vote. The House passed its own version, without Sebelius' proposal, 120-3, and negotiations over spending proposals began Thursday night.

The increase in judges' salaries was included in a separate bill that increases court docket fees to provide the $2.4 million necessary to cover the raises. Senators approved the measure, 30-9, sending it to the House.

Sebelius has already signed into law most of the $11.3 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, providing for an increase in spending of about 4 percent, or $433 million. But legislators are considering an additional budget bill to correct mistakes or reflect revised estimates for some programs' cost.

But that last spending bill also gives legislators a chance to reconsider previous decisions, which is what senators did with state employees' pay.

Legislators already approved a 1.25 percent pay raise, starting in June, with an additional 1.25 percent boost in December.

At the urging of Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, the Senate voted 21-18 to add $12 million to the bill, to provide a 2.5 percent raise starting in June, as Sebelius had proposed.

But some legislators questioned whether the Senate's action -- which would tap general tax revenues -- would survive budget negotiations.

"There's no money to pay for it," said Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence.

The chances of an increase in judges' pay could be even slimmer, despite some senators' belief that their salaries aren't competitive enough with those offered by private law practices.

Under the judicial pay bill, the Kansas Supreme Court's chief justice would receive about $130,000 and other justices, about $127,000. District court judges' salaries would be about $112,000, and magistrates' annual pay, about $58,000.

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