TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas legislators on Saturday approved pay raises of up to 5 percent to state workers who haven’t had any in recent years as lawmakers wrapped up work on budget issues and adjourned their unusually long annual session.
Both chambers passed a single bill containing proposed state budgets for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and the one starting in July 2018. The votes of 88-27 in the House and 27-11 in the Senate sent the measure to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
Legislators already have passed a separate plan increasing spending on public schools to meet a court mandate and earlier this week enacted an income tax increase over Brownback’s veto to balance the budget and provide the extra money for education.
The tax increase also allows for pay raises for state workers, who haven’t seen across-the-board raises for all employees approved since 2008. Small groups of workers have received pay raises to make their salaries more competitive with other states or private employment, and the state provided a one-time, $250 bonus in 2013.
The budget legislation provides a 5 percent raise to employees working five or more years for the state who haven’t had a raise within the past five years. Others working for the state would receive a 2.5 percent raise if they haven’t had an increase in the past two years. All employees in the state’s court systems — including judges — will get a 2.5 percent raise because their salaries are often far below market rates. Legislators get no pay increase.
“If we’re going to do pay increases, let’s do it in the right manner,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Troy Waymaster, a Bunker Hill Republican. “Let’s go in and address the ones who haven’t received an increase.”
The pay increases also are likely to benefit civil service employees more than non-civil service employees because the Brownback administration has used higher salaries to encourage some workers to leave the civil service in recent years and give up its job protections.
Lawmakers who backed the bill said it also bolsters important social services and other programs. But conservative Republicans already on the losing end of the tax debate excoriated what they saw as excessive spending.
“This is unreasonable, and it’s not the way we should be treating Kansas taxpayers,” said Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, a Leavenworth Republican.
Saturday was the 113th day of legislative session that was supposed to last 100 days, and only a day short of 2015’s record of 114 days. The Legislature has scheduled a brief, formal adjournment ceremony for June 26.
Under the budget bill, total spending, including spending financed with federal funds and other sources such as college tuition, would continue to hover around $16 billion.
The bill authorizes $15.6 billion in spending for the next fiscal year beginning in July and $15.8 billion for the fiscal year after that. The portion financed with state tax dollars other than highway funds will grow from the current $6.3 billion to roughly $6.6 billion for each of the next two fiscal years. Legislative researchers project that the state will end June 2019 with cash reserves of $210 million.
The tax increase enacted over Brownback’s veto allowed lawmakers to close projected budget shortfalls totaling $889 million through June 2019 and phase in a $293 million increase over two years in the state’s aid to its 286 local public schools districts. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in March that the state’s $4 billion a year in education funding is inadequate.
The tax increase is expected to raise $1.2 billion over two years by raising rates and ending an exemption for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners. Lawmakers largely rolled back past income tax cuts championed by Brownback.
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