Gov. Sam Brownback downplayed concerns that state workers would be furloughed next month due to the state's budget problems.
If the Legislature does not pass a balanced budget by the first week of June, state employees could face furloughs next month.
Brownback would have authority over that decision, but he resisted the notion that furloughs would be necessary when talking to reporters Thursday morning, arguing that setting an exact date would put artificial pressure on lawmakers.
“I’m not trying to put any artificial deadline on people. … Because if people feel like there’s some artificial deadline that’s here then they react negatively to that, ‘You’re just trying to force us to do something,’ ” Brownback said.
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“This is a tactic a lot of times that’s used in Washington, saying, ‘OK, it’s got to be done by this date or these things shut things down’ and then right at the last minute they figure out, ‘Oh, wait a minute, we’ve found five days here,’ ” Brownback said.
The state faces a $400 million shortfall for next fiscal year and state statute requires that lawmakers pass a balanced budget. Despite reaching the 98th day of their session, lawmakers have made little progress toward filling that gap as Republicans who control both the House and Senate have squabbled over whether to raise taxes – and which taxes specifically – to fill the hole.
“This is very difficult for a Republican Legislature to deal with,” Brownback said about the task of finding consensus on taxes. “For most folks they would say let’s try to reduce the budget.”
Brownback was non-committal when asked whether additional budget cuts might be needed to balance the budget and whether he would support that.
“I’m sure there are possibilities,” Brownback said.