Statehouse Live: Kansas House budget committee approves proposal to cut state employees’ pay by 7.5 percent

School funding would also be cut

? The House budget-writing committee on Tuesday approved a budget that would cut state employee pay 7.5 percent as well as base state aid to public schools.

The measure was passed by the Appropriations Committee on a partisan vote with only Republicans supporting it. House Bill 2014 will next go to the full House for debate, but it was not clear when that would happen.

Rep. Pete DeGraaf, R-Mulvane, authored the 7.5 percent pay cut, saying it was needed to help bridge an estimated $550 million revenue shortfall. “I realize it’s difficult, but it’s necessary,” DeGraaf said.

He acknowledged it would be tough for state workers, but said that during the recession many employees in the private sector have taken pay cuts or lost their jobs.

Jane Carter, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, called the proposal “disgraceful.”

“The services and the jobs that they (state employees) do are not respected by the Legislature or by the governor,” she said.

The measure would cut all state agencies’ salaries and wages by 7.5 percent. It would allow agencies flexibility to make those cuts, DeGraaf said. For example, he said agencies could furlough employees. He said not all state employees would receive a pay cut because some agencies may be able to achieve the savings through other means.

At Regents universities, money from the pay cuts could be redirected to fixing a backlog of repairs and maintenance of campus buildings. DeGraaf said it was necessary to keep higher education funding at a level that would satisfy federal requirements to get stimulus funds.

The pay proposal would also cut the salaries for “state officers” by 7.5 percent. This includes judges, justices, statewide elected officials, agency heads and legislators, DeGraaf said.

The reductions would occur during the last six pay periods of the current fiscal year.

The issue of pay levels for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, will have to be debated later in the current legislative session, he said.

The proposed budget includes nearly all of the budget cuts recommended by Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, and added a few more put in by Republicans on the committee. The bill covers the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

“The state is bleeding and we have to start making some tough cuts,” said state Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora.

Brownback’s budget recommendation would cut school funding in the current school year by reducing base state aid per student from $4,012 to $3,937, or $75 per pupil.

It would also fall $16.7 million short of federal requirements for special education funding. Educators said that could mean the loss of an additional $70 million in federal funds. Brownback’s policy director, Landon Fulmer, said it wasn’t certain whether there would be a penalty, although he said Kansas has already been penalized $2 million by the federal government for falling short on special education funding.

In addition to the proposed pay cut, the proposed budget also ends a pay program that was designed to boost the pay of some state employees who earned far less than their private sector counterparts.