Politics & Government

House GOP backs off pay cuts for state workers

TOPEKA — Kansas House Republicans on Monday modified a plan to reduce state employee wages, backing off a proposal approved last week that would have saved the state more than $8 million in the current year.

Instead, the House budget panel approved changes Monday that would have the cut apply only to certain state officials, including elected officials and state employees making more than $100,000.

The plan now will save Kansas a little more than $900,000 in the budget year that ends June 30. The committee sent the bill to the full House, which is expected to debate it later in the week. Overall, the House budget bill would save the state more than $36 million in the current year.

Rep. Pete DeGraaf, R-Mulvane, originally proposed the larger agency pay cut last week when the committee worked the bill. He modified his plan Monday, saying it was going to be more difficult to legally cut the salaries of judicial and other state employees.

"Some of us were looking to bring it to the bottom line for next year," DeGraaf said.

Legislators are considering the cuts as they work a bill sought by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback to freeze government spending. Brownback wants to halt expenditures and create an ending balance of $35 million in the current fiscal year.

The governor has said the cuts are needed as the state faces a projected $550 million budget shortfall in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

A Senate budget committee didn't take action on its version of the spending bill. Senators are waiting to see the results of the House debate before finishing their work. Last week, the Ways and Means Committee added dollars for education spending, including some $16 million increase in funding to prevent a potential loss in federal special education funding in the coming budget years.

Chairwoman Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, said the committee would wait until after the House debate before resuming work on the bill, perhaps not until Thursday or Friday.

McGinn expected senators to consider modifying their proposal, which spends nearly all the revenue cushion sought by Brownback.

The committee on Monday endorsed the nomination of Dennis Taylor, Brownback's choice for secretary of administration. Most of the panel's questions to Taylor were related to his duties as the new state repealer. Brownback created the post as a means for reviewing and eliminating rules, regulations and statutes that are viewed as unnecessary or burdensome to Kansans and business.

The full Senate will vote to confirm Taylor, but that vote hasn't been scheduled.

Legislators also received some good revenue news Monday, learning that the state collected $29.5 million more than anticipated in January.

The next revenue projection for the remainder of the current fiscal year and first for 2012 will be made in April by a group of state researchers and economists.