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Legislative leaders agree not to work Fridays to save money

TOPEKA — Republican legislative leaders from the House and Senate announced Monday that neither chamber would work Fridays for the moth of January to save the state money.

The leaders also agreed to propose a 5 percent pay cut for legislators and to rescind the recent increase in legislative subsistence (per diem) pay, taking the daily allowance back from $116 to $109/day for food and lodging, a 6 percent cut. Those changes would have to be approved by the Legislature.

In past years both chambers would typically gavel in, then gavel out on Fridays. Lawmakers would get paid but usually no work was done.

"These calendar changes and cuts in legislative compensation are part of our overall approach to reduce costs at this time of severe stress on the state budget. Legislators want to do their part." said Senate President Stephen Morris, R-Hugoton.

Lawmakers are paid $88.66 each day they serve in their elected capacity. They also receive a $109 per diem to cover expenses. So during a typical 90-day session, a lawmaker will pull in $17,789.40.

The furlough days – January 15, 22, and 29th – could save the legislative budget up to $141,728.

Exceptions will be made for lawmakers who work on the Senate Ways and Means and House Appropriations committees, which handle budget issues.

"Despite the short three-month duration of the legislative session, we know it's important to control legislative costs along with other reductions in government spending. Today's pay reduction proposal for the Legislature is a significant step in that process,” said Speaker of the House Rep. Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson.

Lawmakers will be grappling with an expected shortfall of more than $300 million for the 2011 budget, which starts July 1.

Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, will unveil his proposed 2011 budget tonight during his first and final State of the State speech at 7 p.m.