TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas legislators considered providing pay raises to at least some state employees as they tried to wrap up work on budget issues Friday so they could adjourn their protracted annual session.
House and Senate negotiators met for a second day Friday to draft the final version of a single bill containing the state budgets for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and the one starting in July 2018. Their proposals were expected to authorize about $15.5 billion in spending from all sources during the next fiscal year and about $16 billion for the following one.
The Republican-controlled Legislature cannot adjourn without finishing the spending blueprints for state government. GOP leaders hoped both chambers could consider the budget bill Saturday, the 113th day of a session that was supposed to be 100 days and has been one of the longest in state history.
The push to finish the budget measure accelerated after lawmakers on Tuesday overrode Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a bill increasing income taxes to raise $1.2 billion over two years. The tax measure erases projected budget shortfalls that had totaled $889 million through June 2019 and allows lawmakers to phase in a $293 million increase over two years in aid to public schools to meet a court mandate.
The veto override prompted Moody’s Investors Services to change its outlook for Kansas’ credit rating to stable from negative, while reaffirming the state’s Aa2 rating. The major ratings agency had downgraded the state’s rating in July 2016, citing its budget problems.
“If the financial world is looking at it in a positive way, then that’s good news,” said House Majority Leader Don Hineman, a Dighton Republican.
Pay raises for state workers were a key issue because employees haven’t seen an across-the-board increase approved since 2008, though selected groups have gotten raises and a one-time $250 bonus for all workers was approved in 2013. Meanwhile, the Kansas Supreme Court pressed this year for raises of up to 22 percent for some court system workers, whose salaries often lag far behind market rates.
The House approved pay raises averaging 11 percent for court system workers other than judges, while the Senate passed a 2 percent pay raise for all state workers. The negotiators were working on a compromise to provide a raise for workers who have not received raises in recent years while providing an extra boost for court employees.
Legislators authorized the higher spending on schools in a separate bill they approved last week. The state Supreme Court ruled in March that the state’s current funding of $4 billion a year is inadequate.
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