Topeka Republican legislative leaders on Friday said there will probably be no pay raise this year for state employees.
House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, and others at a panel discussion before the Kansas Chamber also said there will be possible state worker furloughs and pay cuts for the higher paid employees.
In addition, O’Neal said he is looking at a proposal to cut the pay of legislators in the 8 percent to 12 percent range.
The proposals were floated before lawmakers in light of a $400 million budget hole.
The economy was on the minds of most speakers at the 2010 Legislative and Congressional Summit at the Topeka Country Club.
U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who is running for governor, said that growing the state’s economy is his top priority. “Job one is jobs,” Brownback said.
Brownback said low taxes and an open regulatory structure are necessary. “We’ve got to look more like Texas and a lot less like California,” he said.
When asked whether that meant allowing private prisons and more toll roads, as Texas has done, Brownback said, “We have to look at innovative solutions that fit and work.”
Brownback steered clear of the current legislative debate over taxes and cuts. “We will come out with a detailed road map after the legislative session,” he said. He added, “We are not going to be able to tax or cut our way out. We have to grow our way out.”
Last year, state legislators and Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, cut nearly $1 billion from a $6.4 billion budget.
Brownback is the only major candidate in the gubernatorial race. Parkinson has said he will not run. Two earlier possible Democratic candidates either declined or dropped out. State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, has said he is considering the race.
As far as what is happening in Congress, Brownback said the so-called “cap-and-trade” energy bill is dead in the Senate, but that the Obama administration will seek to regulate carbon dioxide emissions through the Environmental Protection Agency.
He said the Democratic health care reform bill is on the ropes and that polls show the public has turned against it. He also said the election in Massachusetts of Republican Scott Brown to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s U.S. Senate seat was like “a neutron bomb went off in Washington.”
He said the primary goal of the Kansas delegation this year is to get funding for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to be built in Manhattan and the awarding of an air refueling tanker contract for Boeing.
Meanwhile, two Republican U.S. House members — Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt — vying to replace Brownback in the Senate debated over who would do a better job of representing Kansas.
“I get things done,” Tiahrt said, reiterating several times that Kansas couldn’t have “timid” representation.
Moran, however, said he understood better what Kansans needed, and that he wasn’t afraid to vote against his party leaders to serve Kansas. “Who I am beholden to are the people of this state,” he said.
Moran has represented the 1st congressional district since 1997 and Tiahrt has represented the 4th congressional district since 1995.
On most topics during the forum, Moran and Tiahrt were in accord. They agreed the economy was the top issue and criticized President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats over health care, energy and increased federal debt.
But when asked how they were different from one another, Tiahrt said, “I’m a conservative, Jerry is a moderate.” Tiahrt described himself as someone who fights hard for Kansas interests.
But Moran said the traditional moderate and conservative labels didn’t apply to the race. Moran said both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for the nation’s problems, and when Republicans were in the majority, he was willing to buck GOP leaders and vote against No Child Left Behind, creation of the Homeland Security agency and the Medicare prescription drug bill.
“We are willing to say no to things that are wrong, regardless,” he said.
A third Republican candidate for the Senate announced on Friday. Robert Londerholm of Olathe is the new candidate. He served as Kansas attorney general from 1965-69. The only declared Democratic candidate is Charles Schollenberger, a former newspaper reporter and editor, from Prairie Village.