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Archive for Thursday, November 12, 2009

Legislators believe pressure is building to consider furloughs of state employees

November 12, 2009, 3:47 p.m. Updated November 12, 2009, 3:57 p.m.

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— The chairmen of the Kansas Legislature’s budget committee believe furloughs of government employees are growing more likely because of the state’s persistent budget problems.

Aides to Gov. Mark Parkinson declined Thursday to discuss what steps he is considering to keep the current state budget balanced, although they did not rule out unpaid leave for state workers. The Democratic governor expects announce his decisions by the end of November.

Budget Director Duane Goossen said Parkinson anticipates making nearly $260 million in cuts or other adjustments to prevent a deficit for the year ending June 30. The governor has promised the budget will be back in balance when the Republican-controlled Legislature reconvenes in January.

“I’m not going to comment on what’s in the mix,” Goossen said. “We’re looking at a whole range of options.”

Some GOP legislators, including House Appropriations Committee Chairman Kevin Yoder, suggest furloughs could prevent other cuts that would force layoffs. Other Republicans have resisted the idea, but Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jay Emler said fresh cuts could force the issue.

“It’s a strong possibility at this point,” said Emler, a Lindsborg Republican. “If there isn’t any money, there isn’t any money.”

Kansas has had four rounds of cuts and budget adjustments this year to avoid running a deficit, and Parkinson imposed the last changes himself in July. Last week, officials issued a new forecast saying the state won’t collect the $5.6 billion in general tax revenues it needs to sustain its current budget.

“You cannot reduce state spending without reducing labor costs,” said Yoder, of Overland Park.

When GOP legislators proposed mandating furloughs earlier this year, Parkinson and fellow Democrats opposed the idea. Administration officials said decisions about reducing personnel costs should be left to agency heads.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said legislators are likely to discuss furloughs again next year, but expressed doubt that Parkinson would take that route.

Asked about furloughs, Parkinson spokesman Seth Bundy noted that the governor said last week he is considering “all the options available” for a “responsible” budget plan. Bundy declined to discuss details.

The state has about 38,500 employees, including some 15,000 on university campuses. About 21,000 workers are covered by Kansas’ civil service system.

Department of Administration spokesman Gavin Young said there are questions under federal law about how much unpaid leave the state can force on non-civil service employees. But Yoder said Parkinson could consider closing state offices early on Fridays.

The most serious discussion of furloughs has come in Kansas’ court system. Salaries and employee benefits consume 98 percent of its $97 million appropriation of state tax dollars.

Chief Justice Robert Davis said last week that the Kansas Supreme Court had drafted a plan to require court employees to take six weeks’ worth of unpaid leave, starting in January. Parkinson and legislators have pledged that the courts will get enough funds to prevent furloughs.

However, district court offices in 33 of the state’s 105 counties already are closing an hour early each day.

Comments

Bob_Keeshan 5 years, 1 month ago

Yet another example of Republican legislators believing there are easy answers available for this crisis.

If Kevin Yoder is so insistent upon furloughs, perhaps he should start with his own three person staff. Then he should consider that he pushed this same idea to his Republican dominated committee last year and was shot down by Republican members who recognized the entire idea as folly.

Furloughs aren't a budget technique, they are a symbolic technique. Some legislators believe symbolism is all you need. Hopefully Governor Parkinson understands that symbolism may win you votes but it has never balanced a budget.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 1 month ago

how about we furlough some of the massive police force that is required to continue this illegal drug war against Americans. After all, the government won't be able to continue dumping billions of dollars down the drain so that law enforcement can keep up a losing campaign.

MyName 5 years, 1 month ago

Basically, what we're talking about is finding $260 M over a system that employs 38,500 people. So savings of approximately $6753 per person per year. What we're talking about is a 15% pay cut for someone that makes $45K/yr or 22.5% for someone that gets paid $30K/yr. Whether you're talking about having that person get paid less, or having them work less, it's still a large chunk of change (2-3 months gross pay).

I don't think there's much you can do that doesn't involve raising taxes or fees, or reducing the number of employees. None of these options is going to be good for the economy of the state.

MyName 5 years, 1 month ago

@AreUNorml:

Yes, that would be a financially reasonable idea (less imprisonment, which costs $20K/yr, more treatment), though it probably wouldn't help the short term budget situation all that much.

CheneyHawk 5 years, 1 month ago

Go to 4 10 hour days for work weeks like the state of Utah did. Overtime disappeared. More work got done in this format. Workers liked the Friday off, utitilities were saved, governor was surprised.

MyName 5 years, 1 month ago

It did save money, but not 15-20% of the worker's salary. More like 1-5% of the utilities budget. And Kansas doesn't do overtime for most of its workers, but rather does comp time (which is basically time and a half off for every hour of overtime worked, but your paychecks are still the same amount).

tomatogrower 5 years, 1 month ago

So I hear someone in Kansas won the 96 million dollar PowerBall. If they take it in a lump sum, maybe the income tax from that will help a little.

tbaker 5 years, 1 month ago

"You cannot reduce state spending without reducing labor costs,” said Yoder, of Overland Park.

Folks - you should pay close attention to politicians who say things like this. Consider for a moment the mind-set required to make such a statement. To do so one must proceed on the assumption that everything the state is currently doing MUST be done. Mr. Yoder doesn't even consider "reducing" what the state does.

How about for starters getting out the state constitution, reading it, and with that understanding shutting down every program and state agency that falls outside of it's authority. Still short of money? How about some 10th amendment nullification? Shut down every federally mandated program forced upon the State of Kansas that didn't come with the federal money to pay for it. Still short? End the income tax and replace it with a sales tax. Kansas is surrounded by states with income taxes. Where would businesses go? Where would people go?

Furloughs? Pay cuts? Mandatory time off without pay? The governor and legislature should be the first to do this, and should have done it already. The fact they haven't tells me the politicians would happily throw a state employee under the bus before they take any painful steps themselves.

coloradoan 5 years, 1 month ago

If it's really so bad, why are they still spending millions on remodeling the Capitol? I put off upgrades and remodeling on my home when money is short, waiting until when times are good again. When we are talking about cutting people's earnings after eight years without a pay increase that even keeps up with inflation, can't we do without the window dressing for the Capitol and other similar vanity projects?

MyName 5 years, 1 month ago

If they were about to lay the shovels I might agree about the capitol building, but you can't exactly stop work in the middle of a project, especially since it's one of the few things they can actually take out bonds for if they need to so the payment is alot more flexible.

And I'm not going to completely disagree with Healthcare's description of the worst of state gov't, but there's plenty of private employers where the same kinds of people do the same kinds of crap. Any place that's big enough to have middle management has to deal with these problems.

But the big issue is how to keep one of the largest employers in the state, the government, from laying off a bunch of people and only making the economy worse. And this isn't a planning failure type of situation, where we set up a budget based on overly optimistic predictions. Everything about the budget process has conservative, but the economy is completely tanked in a way that hasn't been seen in 70 years. And if you manage to cut out the wrong people, you could end up in a situation where anyone who knows how to work is gone and all that's left are the people who are good at looking like they're doing something.

coloradoan 5 years, 1 month ago

MyName, to follow on with your comments regarding the talent that really does do the work, an additional consideration is that many of the positions associated with Federal programs are funded by Federal grants. If the positions are reduced, then Federal monies are at risk as I understand it. Before anyone jumps in to say that I don't know those are our monies, not Federal, I get that part, OK. But for accounting purposes, Kansas will potentially get back fewer Federal dollars as these jobs tied to Federal dollars are reduced. So, are we shooting ourselves in the foot?

Also, as for the project at the Capitol, I understand it's sufficiently segmented that work on one component could be completed, with the rest put on hold. Learned yesterday that the plan is to put air conditioning in the Dome so visitors would not be uncomfortable. Good grief. If it's that hot, see it in the cool of the morning. How many tens of thousands will this cost? Just so what, maybe 50 visitors a day can avoid sweating in July and August?

Godot 5 years, 1 month ago

When will the people realize that we are out of money, that Uncle Sugar is broke? In October, the USA received $135bn in taxes; it (we) spent over $300 bn. If the Feds are that far in the hole, where do the local governments expect to appeal to for help with their deficits?

We are all bankrupt.

thepianoman 5 years, 1 month ago

I've worked for the state for a couple years. I am thankful to have a job, but must say how schockingly fascinated I am at how state agencies are so bloated--personnel wise. It's incredible. People would be shocked at how much money (millions upon millions) could be saved by eliminating unecessary positions, consolidating departments, etc, etc.

Trust me---It is SO VERY possible for the state to have an abundance of money if it took the time to do some restructuring of its agencies...and other cost-cutting measures.

This is the time for some extensive reform in state government, but I'm sure it won't happen....It's Kansas....Nothing ever changes....These agencies and its workers have been in existence since the birth of the universe.....doing the same thing...day after day after day after day......

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 1 month ago

Privatize all roads in Kansas and eliminate KDOT.

Make the universities private. Donate all lands and buildings to the universities in exchange for never having to pay another cent to them.

Consolidate most western Kansas counties into two or three counties, getting rid of all of the redundant county agencies and school districts.

Fire half of the police, fire and medical personnel and allow private companies to pick up the slack.

bluerain 5 years, 1 month ago

The ants will be disheartened if they are asked to take unpaid furlough after working so hard.

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