Topeka The House budget-writing committee on Tuesday approved cutting state employees’ pay by $19 million, but exempted legislative staff.
Rep. Sharon Schwartz, R-Washington, made the motion to remove the legislators’ support staff from the proposed pay cut.
“That is the least we can do to show our support,” Schwartz said. “I don’t see how we can carry on our work without these people,” she said.
Rep. Pete DeGraaf, R-Mulvane, said it was “inappropriate” to exempt the legislative staff from the pay cut.
Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, noted that the departments that support the Legislature, such as the Legislative Research Department, Revisor of Statutes, and Division of Post Audit, were receiving increases in funding.
“We are adding money for our people, but we are asking others to take some cuts,” Peck said.
But other Republicans said those increases were justified. For example, part of the increase for the Legislature Research Department is to pay for more staff to help legislators with redistricting next year.
Democrats joined Schwartz, although Rep. Bill Feuerborn of Garnett said, “We have lots of other workers in state positions. It’s not correct to just pick out certain workers.”
The House Appropriations Committee approved Schwartz’s motion.
The committee then approved the overall budget bill on a 12-10 vote, which advances the measure to the full House.
Democrats criticized the overall appropriations bill saying it hurt public schools, state employees and social services. The House plan cuts state base aid to public schools by $232 per student.
“If we made a list of all the cuts, the column would be pretty long and the pain would be extensive,” said Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence.
Several conservative Republicans said the proposal spent too much. But a majority on the committee said the bill was the best balance they could strike in tough times. The state is facing an estimated $500 million revenue shortfall in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Under the proposal to cut state employees’ pay, legislators, justices and judges, statewide elected officials and statutory agency heads would face a 7.5 percent cut. In addition, all other state employees making more than $100,000 would be cut 7.5 percent.
Those making between $40,000 and $100,000 would be cut on a sliding scale. Employees earning below $40,000 would not be cut.
The bill will be considered by the full House next week.