Topeka State employees would see their pay cut by 5 percent under a plan approved Thursday by Republicans on the House budget-writing committee.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, said the proposal was needed to help resolve a $328 million state budget deficit.
“We can fire more workers or reduce the pay of all workers,” Yoder said. If enacted, the pay cut would save about $40 million.
The pay cut was part of a larger deficit reduction package offered by state Rep. Jason Watkins, R-Wichita.
Watkins also won approval of an amendment that applied the pay cut to workers at regents universities, including Kansas University.
Funds from the 5 percent cut to their salaries would stay in the regents system and be used to hold down tuition, he said.
Keeping the funds in the regents system would also prevent higher education funding from falling below the required level of state funding for the state to draw down federal stimulus funds, officials said.
Democrats on the Appropriations panel weren’t happy with the proposed pay cut to state employees.
State Rep. Bill Feuerborn of Garnett, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said lawmakers should cut appropriations to state agencies and let the managers decide how to apply the cuts.
State Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, said the pay cut would be especially harmful to employees nearing retirement because it would reduce their pension benefits.
“We’re asking them to take a pay cut now and a pay cut in the future,” he said.
Jane Carter, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said the proposal would knock salaries back to 1999 levels.
“Don’t balance the budget on the backs of state employees,” Carter said. She noted that according to a recent study commissioned by the Legislature, one in three state employees is earning 25 percent less than workers at the same kind of jobs in the private market.
But Yoder said the proposal would help avoid further cuts to education and raising taxes.
The measure will now go to the full House for consideration.