Tensions were running high among Kansas University workers, other state employees and taxpayers in Lawrence Tuesday, as state leaders grappled with a budget impasse that could leave state workers without paychecks and Kansas residents without state income tax refunds.
"I can tell you my bank account’s really low right now, so I'd like to get paid on Friday," said Nathan Mack, a student worker at KU.
Late Tuesday, state Republican leaders and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius announced separate actions that should lead to paychecks being issued and income tax refunds going out.
Mack, a senior from Lawrence, is among 4,461 KU students who won't get paid if state leaders don't get their acts together.
Kansas University workers in Lawrence would be without $9 million in their pocketbooks at the end of the week if they're not paid, university officials said Tuesday.
The state doesn't have enough money in its main bank account to pay 55,000 employees who are scheduled to receive a paycheck on Friday.
Paychecks for all state employees are in jeopardy, as Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius are at a budget impasse.
Sebelius proposed Monday that the state shift $225 million into its main bank account from accounts around state government.
But Republican leaders, who control majorities in both legislative chambers, balked. They question whether the borrowing is legal as long as the state has a projected deficit in its current budget.
"Power struggle, that's what I think it is," said Phil Crump, KU maintenance worker.
The university dishes out the largest number of paychecks of any unit paid by the state government, the state department of administration said, with 9,072 employees.
Some workers said not getting a paycheck at the end of the week would result in harsh consequences.
"I guess I can't come to work, I have no money to pay for gas," said Daniel Mayeux, KU maintenance worker. "I might get kicked out of my apartment, you never know."
The university said about 75 percent of its workers are full-time. State workers are paid every two weeks.
In his 23 years as a state employee, KU landscape supervisor Allen Mitchell said he's never been without a paycheck.
"They've always come through every time, so hopefully they'll come through this time, so then we can all eat," he said. "It's up to the politics up there in Topeka; we'll just have to run with them."
State income tax refunds have also been suspended, officials said. Word spread through the community Tuesday, leaving some unhappy.
"I'd rather not go without it, because that's a nice little chunk of money I'd like to have," said Brandon Caylor, employee of Juice Stop, 812 Mass.
As of Monday, the state had $10 million in its main account and faced $56 million worth of payroll expenses, Medicaid payments and income tax refunds.