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Brownback Looks At Possible Worker Furloughs

Sean Sandefur file photo
File photo of Sam Brownback

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's office is working to determine when it would have to inform state workers they would be furloughed if a budget is not passed on time, the governor's spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The Legislature already is in overtime on its 90-day session, with Wednesday being its 97th day, and has yet to pass a balanced budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Spokeswoman Sara Belfry said the governor's office is working with several agencies to "determine the last possible date" the budget would need to be passed in order to avoid payroll disruptions.

Legislative researchers say that the state is legally obligated to approve a budget by June 7, but salary payments would not necessarily be disrupted if it comes later in the month.

The lawmakers' own salaries make up the majority of the roughly $45,000 per day it costs to keep the Legislature in session beyond its regularly scheduled close, according to administrative staff. That is made up of about $88 per day in salary, $129 per day in per diem living expenses and varying levels of compensation for lawmakers who travel long distances to legislative sessions.

Twenty-four Republicans out of the state's 165 lawmakers have waived their daily salaries since the 90th day; four have also waived their per diem pay.

Republican Rep. Don Hineman from Dighton said he waived his salary because it didn't "feel right" receiving it beyond the 90 days he signed up for, but said he fully respects the decision of those to keep taking their salaries because "we all have lives and obligations back home."

But Republican Sen. Jeff Longbine from Emporia, who has also waived his salary, said, "At some point I think it becomes a credibility problem," for legislators advocating fiscal responsibility to contribute to spending increases by taking the overtime pay.

The four who have also waived their daily expense allowance are: Republican Reps. Randy Garber, of Sabetha; Lane Hemsley, of Topeka; Becky Hutchins, of Holton; and Fred Patton, of Topeka.

"The Republicans in the Statehouse, whether that be from the governor's office or the Legislature, need to show that we're in a position to govern," Longbine said. "I certainly think that adjourning on time is part of that responsibility."