Daily Archives: Jan. 29, 2010

Pay raises for state employees unlikely, lawmakers say

TOPEKA – State employees shouldn’t expect bigger pay checks this year, Republican legislative leaders told a group of Friday.

“It would be highly unlikely that there will be pay increases,” Sen. Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg said at the Kansas Chamber’s Legislative and Congressional Summit.

Emler, who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee, spoke along with House Appropriation Chairman Rep. Kevin Yoder, of Overland Park, Senate President Stephen Morris, Hugoton and House Speaker Mike O’Neal, Hutchison.

Lawmakers were telling state agencies how much to cut but not how to go about decreasing costs, Emler said.

O’Neal suggested the state look at its highest paid worker for the cuts, “we should be looking at the ones at the top,” he said.

That way the lowest paid state workers would not be harmed, he said.

Lawmakers are looking for ways to plug a $400 million gap in the 2011 state budget, which begins July 1. Gov. Mark Parkinson has said the state cannot afford to cut more from the budget and proposed a three year 1 cent increase to the state sales tax and an increase on cigarettes and tobacco products.

The tax increases have met with a tepid response.

Friday, the legislative leaders also suggested Kansas could reduce costs by reducing government and finding efficiencies in existing systems.

Yoder pointed to a recent Legislative Post Audit that found $1 million in savings that could be found at the Derby School District. He also pointed to another study about reducing the number of district judges.

“One of best ways for savings is to reduce waste,” he said.

Morris also saw the potential for reductions in local government – there are 4,000 units of local government, he noted.

“It’s sort of over the top,” he said.

Public sector jobs and government growth has come at the local government and school districts, he said.

It would be a hard political fight, but maybe Kansas could do with fewer levels of government such as townships, he said.

Later this evening, U.S. Senatorial Republican candidates, U.S. Reps. Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt will be jointly speaking to the group. The two are jockeying to be the Republican nominee for Republican U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback’s seat.

Brownback is stepping down and running for Kansas governor.

Check back later for an update on Moran and Tiahrt’s appearances.

UPDATED: Senate Judiciary panel passes bill to eliminate the death penalty

TOPEKA – The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill Friday that would abolish the state’s death penalty for crimes committed after July 1.

By a vote of 7-4, the bill now goes to the full Senate for discussion.

Senators had considered two bills: Senate Bill 208, which was debated last year, and Senate Bill 375, which replaces the death penalty with the crime of aggravated murder. The new crime comes with a mandatory life without parole sentence.

The committee tabled the first bill and moved forward Senate Bill 375.

Voting yes were Republican senators Dwayne Umbarger, Thayer; John Vratil, Leawood; Mary Pilcher Cook, Shawnee; Les Donovan, Wichita; Chairman Tim Owens, Overland Park, and Democratic senators Laura Kelly, Topeka and David Haley, Kansas City, Kan.

Voting no were Republican senators Jean Schodorf, Wichita; Derek Schmidt, Independence; Julia Lynn, Olathe and Terry Bruce, Hutchinson.

Schodorf said she was voting no in committee because she already knew she would vote that way on the Senate floor.

Schmidt, who is the chamber’s majority leader, urged the senators not to move the measure forward pointing out it was unlikely to succeed this year.

“The question is not is the death penalty going to be repealed this year,” he said. “The question is at what point does it stop this year.”

Others disagreed.

“People need to be able to review something as serious as a death penalty consideration because this is truly life and death we are talking about,” Owens said.

For more, read Saturday’s Wichita Eagle.