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Archive for Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Budget negotiators advance state employee raise

K-12, higher education funds would increase without tax hike

March 30, 2005

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— State classified employees would get a 1.25 percent payraise July 1 and then another 1.25 payraise around January, under a spending plan approved Tuesday by House and Senate budget negotiators.

In wrapping up work on the $11.3 billion state budget, the legislative conference committee also approved a $10 million increase for state universities. The plan also includes a $127 million increase for public schools.

"Higher education did real well," said state Sen. Dwayne Umbarger, R-Thayer, and chairman of the Senate budget committee.

House budget chairman Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, said the proposal was "as good a deal as we could negotiate."

The committee reached agreement after numerous meetings Tuesday where the House and Senate sides traded offers and then would meet separately behind closed doors and emerge with counter offers.

The major hangups were on the state employee payraise and funding higher education.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius had proposed a 2.5 percent payraise to take effect July 1. The Senate agreed with that position, but the House approved delaying the payraise nine months, until March 12, 2006.

After numerous proposals, the two sides agreed to enact a 1.25 percent payraise on July 1 that would be funded through internal agency savings for the first 13 two-week pay periods. Then the rest of the year, another 1.25 percent would be added and the total amount would paid by the state.

Keith Haxton, a spokesman for the State Employee Association of Kansas, said lawmakers reduced Sebelius' proposed payraise because they wanted to provide an increase to public schools without raising taxes.

"It's great that employees got something, but schools shouldn't be funded on the backs of state employees," he said.

On higher education, the House had reduced the current block grant of $565.2 million to $553.8 million. The Senate had proposed an increase in the block grant, but the two sides agreed to $575.3 million.

Another obstacle between the House and Senate was over payments to community colleges, which receive funds for students who are from out of their districts. The funding level was set to decrease soon, but the Senate insisted on offsetting that lost revenue at a cost of $3.2 million.

A vote on the budget is planned for this week.

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