Kansas state workers to be told by noon of possible furlough

TOPEKA – Nonessential state employees will be notified by noon Friday if they are to be furloughed as a deadlock in budget talks continues.

Kansas’ Republican-dominated Legislature has been sharply divided over measures to fill a budget shortfall initially projected at $800 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1. Stalled talks over tax increases and spending cuts to fill the gap has driven the lawmakers into overtime, and nonessential state workers will be furloughed at 12:01 a.m. Sunday if a budget is not signed by then, according to the Department of Administration’s website.

The furlough would not apply to public school employees or judicial branch workers because budgets for those agencies have already been signed into law.

The House approved a budget Wednesday that would shrink the projected deficit to about $406 million, and Senate leaders have said the chamber could consider an alternative proposal that would fully balance through a 5.9 percent across-the-board cut.

However, the Senate has not debated a comprehensive budget proposal since March, and 54 GOP House members called on the chamber Friday to take up a budget measure to prevent the possible furloughs.

“State workers who provide valuable services should not have to endure furloughs because the Senate stalled on taking up the budget,” House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, said in a statement.

Aides to the Senate majority leader said the chamber had not decided if it would debate a budget proposal and Senate leaders were meeting privately.

Democratic Rep. Tom Sawyer from Wichita said of the possibility of a partial government shutdown, “it’s like some nightmare.”