Kansas avoids furloughs for state workers, but no budget deal yet

By Land Line staff | 6/8/2015

A bill signed by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback declaring all state employees to be “essential” forestalled furloughing thousands of workers, including employees of the state department of transportation. The designation is only temporary, and buys state lawmakers about two weeks to come to an agreement on a budget that will make up for a revenue shortfall of between $350 million and $400 million.

Legislators in Topeka are still trying to find a way to pass a budget that will shore up the state’s financial coffers. State legislators are in the midst of a record-setting 109-day run without having approved a budget.

Schools and government agencies across the state were bracing last week for furloughs, including the Kansas Department of Transportation, which sent out an email on Friday, June 5, noting that field crews available for traffic control would be reduced, mowing operations suspended, and road kill removal halted unless the animal posed a safety hazard.

As many as 24,000 so-called “non-essential” state employees faced furloughs had the temporary measure not passed both chambers by midnight Saturday. Emergency furloughs triggered by the end of a budget year apply only to workers deemed nonessential to state operations.

Lawmakers in the Sunflower State face another looming deadline crunch to resolve budget issues as a new fiscal year begins July 1. That is also the date on which the state’s current spending authority expires. If a budget is not passed by July 1, the state will not have the authority to disburse funds, including salaries.

A proposed tax bill that was passed by the Senate in the Republican-dominated state Legislature, would protect a controversial zero tax rate for some business owners and corporations while raising the state sales tax rate nearly half a cent and increasing the tax on cigarettes by 50 cents per pack.

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