Daily Archives: May 6, 2011

Sen. McGinn: Don’t pay us after Thursday

TOPEKA — Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, has introduced a measure to halt legislative pay after Thursday, the 90th day of the session.

In odd-number years, legislators can meet past the standard 90 days without voting to extend the session.

In a news release, McGinn, chair of the Senate’s ways and means committee, said “Kansans elected us to come to Topeka to get our work done within the 90-day session. For those concerned with balancing the budget and — as much as is possible — setting good public policy, we need to get serious about finishing our work and going home.”

Legislative research director Alan D. Conroy said it costs $60,000 every day legislators meet. That figure includes salaries for support staff. Last year, legislators met for 89 days. The longest session since 1969, for which records were readily available Friday, was in 2002, when legislators met 102 days.

“We do not have extra money to pay for legislators’ inaction,” McGinn said Friday. “That money could be better spent in the classroom or serving our most vulnerable citizens, if legislators get their work done on time.”

House Speaker Mike O’Neal on Friday afternoon called McGinn’s measure “window dressing.” He said he would support asking legislators to decline pay at their choice but raised concerns about the legality of stopping pay.  Mary Torrence,  revisor of statutes, said she knew of no reason why ceasing pay at 90 days would be unconstitutional.

Senate says budget impasse is House’s fault; House blames Senate

TOPEKA — House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson,  this afternoon suggested employing a disciplinary tactic he used on his children on legislators: If you don’t like what you’re getting for dinner, you’re going to eat it for breakfast the next day.

He made his comment to reporters this afternoon after Senate leaders this morning criticized the House for not offering more compromise on the budget.

Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, this morning called the latest two budget offers by the Kansas House “regressive” and said she had hoped for more progress going into the weekend.  Unresolved issues range from education funding and money for SRS to the Kansas Affordable Airfares Program to longevity Christmas bonuses for Statehouse staff.

Appearing tired from a grueling week of negotiations, McGinn said she nonethless was encouraged that Rep. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, said his committee would take a new look at its offers. McGinn chairs the Senate’s budget committee. Rhoades chairs the House’s.

Rhoades said he believed his chamber’s budget negotiators had made a “good-faith effort” in its proposals to the Senate. O’Neal said the Senate “seems to be in avoidance behavior on a variety of issues. “We need to see some movement, and we need to see some movement pretty fast to get adjourned on time,” O’Neal said this afternoon.

But McGinn said the House’s offers were too focused on an ending number and not enough on public policy. The republican leadership of the House issued a statement Thursday that both sides had agreed to an ending balance of $50 million. Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, this morning said he didn’t know where that statement came from.

“It was a surprise to me,” he said in a meeting with reporters.

“We would all like to see a healthy ending balance in this budget,” Morris said in a news release issued after the meeting. “But we’d also like to make sure our local schools stay open, our senior citizens are cared for and our economy remains on track for recovery. We have the ability to do both.”

Legislators have worked 13 rounds of negotiations, and budget conferees will meet again Monday morning.

McGinn said it is important for the Legislature to ensure the state’s core services are funded so they are not “dumped on the backs of local government. That can certainly change the makeup of your community.”

Senate Vice President John Vratil, R-Leawood, said when the House makes an offer that promises progress, the Senate will accept it.

“We’re sitting at the table with a plan that is balanced, that minimizes the cuts to our communities and that leaves money in the bank,” Vratil said in a news release after the meeting. “The Senate is ready to get that plan passed and wrap up the session.”

The standard 90-day session will end Thursday, though in odd-number years, there is no limit on how long legislators can meet. In even number years, legislators go to 90 days and must vote to extend any time beyond that. said legislative research director Alan D. Conroy.  McGinn is introducing a measure to not pay legislators past Thursday.

“Time is running out on negotiations,” said Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg. “The Senate remains serious about balancing the budget, and we are intent on doing it in the 90 days taxpayers have given us.”

Senate Democrats on Friday called on Gov. Sam Browback to take a bigger role in the budget deliberations.

“I think it is imperative that the governor show some leadership and bring members of his political party together and try to end this session,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat.

House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, plans to meet with reporters at 2 p.m. today.