Topeka House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, said Friday that the Legislature should consider furloughing state employees to help balance the budget.
“I think we just ought to look very hard and seriously at some sort of a defined furlough plan,” O’Neal told The Associated Press. “My expectation is for that to be in the mix before we consider other options.”
But Democratic legislative leaders said no way.
“It would be a kick in the teeth to state employees who have been underpaid for many years,” said House Democratic Leader Paul Davis, of Lawrence.
Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, said furloughs — essentially requiring most of the state’s 42,000 workers to take time off without pay — should only be considered as a “last resort.”
When lawmakers return Wednesday for the wrap-up session, they will face a $328 million deficit in the $13 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
So far, Republicans who control the Legislature have focused on additional budget cuts, while Democrats have called for delays in the phaseout of tax cuts that had been approved earlier.
Hensley handed to reporters a report that showed the Legislature from 1995 to 2005 has granted businesses $6.7 billion in tax cuts and $6.1 billion in reductions of employer-paid unemployment compensation contributions.
“We have cut a lot of taxes; now we need to ask the business community to be part of the solution,” he said.
O’Neal said he favored a furlough of perhaps one day a month as a way to avoid employee layoffs.