Kansas governor to sign a bill aimed at averting furloughs - KCTV5 News

Kansas governor to sign a bill aimed at averting furloughs

Posted: Updated:

Kansas legislators voted unanimously Saturday to keep thousands of state workers on the job next week, even though lawmakers haven't resolved budget and tax issues.

The votes of 39-0 in the Senate and 106-0 in the House were only hours apart, sending the measure to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. In a statement, Brownback said he would sign House Substitute for SB 11:

“Today the Legislature passed, and I will sign, House Substitute for SB 11, a bill that designates all state workers as “essential” and therefore exempt from any emergency or administrative furlough through Sine Die."

“Every state employee is essential to our success and provides needed services to the citizens of our state. All state employees should report to work as normal beginning Sunday, June 7, even though the Legislature has not yet passed a bill authorizing expenditures."

“The solution is for the Legislature to continue its work, and bring to my desk a balanced budget with sufficient revenues to pay state obligations and do so now."

“It is past time for the Legislature to act."

“If the Legislature does not pass a budget and tax policy, it leaves the state with no authority to disburse funds, including salaries. SB 11 means that employees will work without the guarantee of being paid for that work. That is potentially in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act."

“The circumstances creating the potential for a furlough still exist: ‘an immediate or imminent lack of funding to continue agency operations,' as defined by K.A.R. 1-14-11 (a)(1). Article 11, Section 4 of the Kansas Constitution requires the Legislature to provide “sufficient revenue to defray the current expenses of the state for two years and further in section 24 states that ‘no money shall be drawn from the treasury except in pursuance of a specific appropriation made by law'.”

The Senate acted minutes after members overwhelmingly rejected another plan for raising taxes to close a projected budget shortfall for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The GOP-dominated Legislature has yet to complete a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and without it, the state has no legal authority to pay employees for work after Saturday. Employees' compensation lags several weeks behind their work, so that their pay for the two-week period beginning Sunday won't be distributed until early July.

The bill approved by lawmakers declares all state employees essential for the next few weeks so that they can at least stay on the job. They would get paid on time if a budget is in place at the start of the new fiscal year.

"It's kind of the prettiest baby in the ugliest baby contest," said Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican. "It's probably not the best way to do it because, quite frankly, it doesn't authorize payment, but it does allow them to work."

Masterson and other top Senate Republicans had considered pushing for a bill financing all of state government for an additional two weeks, viewing the bill declaring all employees essential as only a "feel-good" measure. But lawmakers had to do something by midnight Saturday to head off furloughs.

The House earlier this week approved a proposed $15.5 billion budget for the next fiscal year that would leave the state with a $406 million shortfall, but GOP lawmakers are sharply divided over raising taxes to fill the rest of the gap. Unlike the federal government, the state is required to pass budgets without deficits.

Saturday was the 107th day of lawmakers' annual session, tying it with the 2002 session as the longest ever. Legislative leaders typically schedule sessions to last 90 days, and each extra day this year has cost the state a total of more than $40,000.

Legislators also have never waited as late in the year to wrap up their work on the next state budget.

Sen. Vicki Schmidt, a Topeka Republican whose district is home to many state workers, said she is insulted that they would "be used as pawns" in the impasse over budget and tax issues.

"We should not risk the livelihoods of our state employees because we couldn't come to a consensus," she said in explaining her vote for the anti-furlough bill.

State agencies and universities sent furlough notices Friday to at least 24,200 employees. But public school employees or judicial branch workers weren't included because budgets for those agencies have already been signed into law.

The percentage of workers receiving furlough notices varied by agency. Department of Administration spokesman John Milburn said it averaged about 40 percent for the agencies under Brownback's direct control, though the Department of Transportation reported notifying about 75 percent of its workers.

Kansas' largest state employees union had promised to file a legal challenge if furloughs were enacted.

Normally, furloughs are negotiated with state employee unions with 30 days' notice given to workers before they go into effect, said Rebecca Proctor, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees. The administration has said the notification requirements can be waived because the current situation meets the criteria of an emergency, which Proctor called "ridiculous."

"I don't see how anyone in good conscience can argue that this is an emergency," Proctor said, arguing that legislators could have addressed the budget situation sooner.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Powered by Frankly
KCTV 5 News

Online Public File:

Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2018, KCTV; Kansas City, MO. (A Meredith Corporation Station) . All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.