Archive for Friday, May 1, 2009

House strips proposed pay cut from budget bill

May 1, 2009, 2:19 p.m. Updated May 1, 2009, 6:00 p.m.

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Gov.  Mark Parkinson has shown bipartisan appeal in his first days in office. Former lieutenant governor Parkinson was elevated to the governor's position when Kathleen Sebelius was confirmed as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Gov. Mark Parkinson has shown bipartisan appeal in his first days in office. Former lieutenant governor Parkinson was elevated to the governor's position when Kathleen Sebelius was confirmed as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

— The Kansas House on Friday rejected a Republican leadership bill to cut the budget, which Democrats said they hoped would spur interest in smaller reductions and delaying the phaseout of tax breaks for businesses.

“There is a certain desire by a majority of House members to take a different approach,” said House Democratic Leader Paul Davis, of Lawrence. “There is concern about the level of these cuts going to the extent that they are really going to hurt state services and cause permanent damage.”

Democrats have called for delays in the phaseout of the corporate franchise tax, estate tax, and decoupling the state tax code from federal tax breaks that are directed mostly at businesses.

“We’re not asking for a tax increase,” Davis said. “We’re simply asking for a delay of some of these taxes that are being phased out.”

The budget-cutting bill failed on a 53-62 vote with all Democrats in the chamber voting against it, along with a group of mostly moderate Republicans.

But House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, didn’t think the vote and nearly five hours of debate provided budget-writers with much direction.

“You saw people voting ‘no’ on a budget, but you didn’t see solutions,” he said.

The Legislature faces a $328 million budget deficit.

Supporters of the bill before the House said it represented a reasonable balance that avoided tax increases during the state’s current economic doldrums.

But even the backers of the bill, under an avalanche of criticism, quickly removed a proposed 5 percent state employee pay cut.

State Rep. Jason Watkins, R-Wichita, who proposed the pay cut in committee, later asked to have it removed, saying he was being “open-minded.”

But for many the remaining proposed cuts were too much: $113 million cut to public schools; $29 million to higher education and a 5 percent across-the-board cut to most other areas of state government. This comes on top of cuts already implemented earlier this session.

An amendment proposed by state Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, made the cuts even deeper by removing an earlier sweep of fee funds from certain agencies.

But in the final vote, the bill was defeated.

State Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, complained that Republicans refused to allow the House Tax Committee to even consider delays on tax phaseouts because of fear of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

He suggested replacing the tax committee with the chamber of commerce.

“If you refuse to have a discussion about that nasty three-letter word, called tax, we should be ashamed of ourselves,” he said.

But several Republicans said taxpayers shouldn’t shoulder the burden of what they called overspending by state government.

Earlier in the day, Gov. Mark Parkinson and representatives of public schools, higher education and health care criticized proposed budget cuts pushed by House Republican leaders.

Further cuts in the administration of the Kansas Health Policy Authority could produce a backlog of 50,000 applications for Medicaid, health officials said.

Meanwhile, six members of the Kansas Board of Regents conducted a news conference decrying the House committee bill that would slice another $29 million from higher education on top of cuts of $63 million over the past several months.

“We are looking at long-term damage for a short-term gain,” said Regent Christine Downey-Schmidt.

And public school officials announced that nearly 1,300 school employees have already been laid off because of the current budget crisis, according to a survey by United School Administrators of Kansas.

Comments

classclown 6 years ago

Parkinson doesn't want to give up 5 percent of his pay.

Maracas 6 years ago

The governor, at least, seems to recognize that paying for shortfalls on the backs of state employees is not a good idea. There are quite a number of state employees barely making it as it is, and they often don't get paid near what their counterparts in other states make. To cut that even further is absurd.

whatfredsaid 6 years ago

Why do state employees always suffer because nobody in Topeka can manage money?

Maracas 6 years ago

Because we vote for those clowns in Topeka who cannot manage money?

Steve Jacob 6 years ago

I just hope they don't layoff, or that 5% will look good.

WilburM 6 years ago

So far, the legislators are just not trying very hard. A combination of cuts and postopnement of some tax cuts would do the trick. The number of special interest sales tax exemptions is immense, and revenue suffers. Much better to do away with ALL sales tax exemptions and lower the overall sales tax rate (a lot!).

Maracas 6 years ago

It's much easier for the legislature to enact a 5% tax on state employees for the privilege of working for the state at wages less than those in other states, than it is to make up the shortfall elsewhere.

KU_cynic 6 years ago

The legislative session is coming to a close, legislators are fatigued and sick of Topeka, revenue projections are worsening, and they don't have Sebelius to badger anymore.

Let's face it, the legislature is going to do some quick and nasty business in the next two weeks. What could be easier than slashing payroll across the board with a salary cut? I bet it happens.

MyName 6 years ago

Well it sounds like the governor basically said he would veto it, which means more time in Topeka. That's not ruling out a cut, just one that drastic.

Shardwurm 6 years ago

Whew.

Now they can do what they really should - lay off the excess employees...and any of you State employees who try to tell me there isn't a gluttage is lying.

timetospeakup 6 years ago

sorry toe, state employees already don't get raises. I haven't seen one in a LONG time.

And yes, there is a lot of dead weight in state government. Unfortunately "the system" is not setup so it's worth anybody's time to get them fired. Managers have no incentive to remove underperformers, so they don't want to do all the paperwork. It's not like they'll get a raise if their agency becomes more efficient. There's no incentive in it for anybody, and cutting pay would only make that worse.

RonBurgandy 6 years ago

This is great news for Kansans. We do not need to put the brunt of this on state employees. Don't speak about sharing the burden when you refuse to consider suspending proposed tax cuts for one year. Businesses can handle it.

Centerville 6 years ago

Business can handle it alright, by laying off people who pay the taxes to keep state employees in velvet. And the state won't begin to get that back from raising business taxes.

texburgh 6 years ago

"State Rep. Jason Watkins, R-Wichita, who proposed the pay cut in committee, later asked to have it removed, saying he was being “open-minded.”"

Since when does "open-minded" mean hypocrite? This was pure political BS - put together a bad budget that causes real harm to social services, colleges, schools, but lets corporate welfare continue unabated - balance it all with a 5% payroll tax on state employees and then pretend you are open-minded on the payroll tax and hope you have fooled democrats and moderate republicans into thinking the bill is better.

Pure political bs from O'Neal.

vega 6 years ago

Centerville, state employees do pay taxes too.

MyOpinionCounts 6 years ago

Centerville, I've worked for the state for 7 years and I'm afraid I missed out on the velvet...I'm afraid I just got the burlap.

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