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Archive for Thursday, May 1, 2014

Kansas budget negotiators reach tentative deal

May 1, 2014, 10:13 a.m. Updated May 1, 2014, 4:04 p.m.

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— Negotiators reached a tentative deal Thursday on the Kansas budget, shaking off a dismal revenue report and a downgrading of the state's bond rating by a leading investment service to push forward with a raise for state workers.

Three House and three Senate members finished work on the remaining items, including adding $11 million to give nearly 38,000 state employees raises. The increases average about $250 per employee.

Other items include more than $360 million for the Department of Corrections for 2015 and 14 more corrections officers at the Topeka Correctional Facility. Both chambers passed the bill on a procedural vote Thursday afternoon, clearing the way for an up or down vote on Friday.

The agreement comes less than a day after the state Department of Revenue reported that tax collections for the month totaled $92 million less than expected. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and other GOP officials cited changes in the federal tax code on capital gains and other income.

Also Wednesday, Moody's Investor Services downgraded the state's bond rating on concerns about long-term pension obligations and further reduction of state ending balances necessary to cover expenses. The service cut the Kansas rating from Aa1 to Aa2. Ratings are assigned to give an indication of risk associated with the investment.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ty Masterson said the state is in fine shape because of healthy reserves that will carry over to the next fiscal year beginning July 1.

"It's not really that much new spending," said Masterson, an Andover Republican. "This year we have plenty of money in the bank."

He said the bigger question was how much of a hit Kansas would take due to the federal changes.

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