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.