‘Fair’ fares still flying high despite critical audit
Armed with a Legislative Post Audit showing “numerous inconsistencies and inaccuracies” in the way officials used data to tout the success of a taxpayer-paid program to provide “affordable airfares” out of Wichita, one would think conservatives would be ready to cut the $5 million annual appropriation. One would be wrong.
During House Appropriations Committee action, Rep. Doug Gatewood, D-Columbus, proposed cutting the annual appropriation in half and requiring local officials match the state’s portion. He was joined by some Democrats and some Republicans. One of those was Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, who said officials from the Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP), who were criticized in the audit for a lack of accountability for the state airfare funds, came across in meetings as “rather obnoxious” and “cavalier.”
But other Republicans, most notably those from Wichita and nearby areas, defeated Gatewood's proposal and recommended providing the full $5 million.
Appropriations Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, provided the key vote against Gatewood, which produced an 11-11 tie and killed the proposed cut. Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, also supports the $5 million appropriation.
State rep. mulls at-will versus civil service
During a briefing on state employee salaries, Rep. Kasha Kelley, R-Arkansas City, wondered how state employees received civil service protection when Kansas is an “at-will” state, which means an employer doesn’t need a good cause to fire a worker.
Alan Conroy, director of the Kansas Legislative Research Department, said that civil service was a turn-of-the-century reform to make sure public service employees weren’t hired and fired based on patronage but on whether they were able to do a good job.
By the way, Conroy’s report showed the average classified employee in Kansas is 47 years old with 14 years of service and making $38,049 per year.
Quote of the week
“Opinions are like belly buttons. Everyone’s got one. The only important belly button to me right now is the governor’s.”
— Budget Director Steve Anderson when asked his opinion on the role of state government in funding higher education.
Proposed 7.5 % pay cut left employees shocked
With Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director sitting behind her, Becki Bohnenblust, from the State University Classified and Support Staff Council, made some emotional comments last week to the regents about the reaction she and other state employees had when a group of Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee proposed a 7.5 percent state employee pay cut.
“The wind seemed to be knocked right out of our sails,” she said.
Afterward, budget director Steve Anderson noted to the regents that the 7.5 percent pay cut was not the governor’s idea. The pay cut for rank-and-file state workers was later removed from the Appropriations Committee bill.
Bill would restrict unions in political activities
House Bill 2130 would prohibit labor organizations from collecting dues for political activities and would prohibit any public employee organization from endorsing candidates or spending any of its income from dues on political activities. The Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity-Kansas support the measure, while Kansas Organization of State Employees, Kansas AFL-CIO, and Kansas National Education Association oppose it.
• 9 a.m. Monday, higher-education budget, before House Appropriations Committee, room 346-South, Capitol.
• 11 a.m. Monday, House Bill 2006, repeal of in-state tuition for some undocumented students, is listed on the schedule of the full House.
• 9 a.m. Tuesday, hearing on House Resolution 6008 “Opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory train wreck,” before House Energy and Utilities Committee, room 785, Docking Building.
• Friday is “turnaround” day which is the last day to consider bills in the house of origin except by House Appropriations, Calendar and Printing, and Taxation, House and Senate Federal and State Affairs, Senate Ways and Means and other select committees when authorized.