Legislative leaders agree not to work Fridays to save money

TOPEKA — Republican legislative leaders from the House and Senate announced Monday that neither chamber would work Fridays for the moth of January to save the state money.

The leaders also agreed to propose a 5 percent pay cut for legislators and to rescind the recent increase in legislative subsistence (per diem) pay, taking the daily allowance back from $116 to $109/day for food and lodging, a 6 percent cut. Those changes would have to be approved by the Legislature.

In past years both chambers would typically gavel in, then gavel out on Fridays. Lawmakers would get paid but usually no work was done.

“These calendar changes and cuts in legislative compensation are part of our overall approach to reduce costs at this time of severe stress on the state budget. Legislators want to do their part.” said Senate President Stephen Morris, R-Hugoton.

Lawmakers are paid $88.66 each day they serve in their elected capacity. They also receive a $109 per diem to cover expenses. So during a typical 90-day session, a lawmaker will pull in $17,789.40.

The furlough days – January 15, 22, and 29th – could save the legislative budget up to $141,728.

Exceptions will be made for lawmakers who work on the Senate Ways and Means and House Appropriations committees, which handle budget issues.

“Despite the short three-month duration of the legislative session, we know it’s important to control legislative costs along with other reductions in government spending. Today’s pay reduction proposal for the Legislature is a significant step in that process,” said Speaker of the House Rep. Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson.

Lawmakers will be grappling with an expected shortfall of more than $300 million for the 2011 budget, which starts July 1.

Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, will unveil his proposed 2011 budget tonight during his first and final State of the State speech at 7 p.m.

Parkinson reiterates his promise not to run for governor

TOPEKA – Gov. Mark Parkinson predicted that the 2010 gubernatorial race would be competitive – but he won’t be part of it.

Wednesday, Parkinson reiterate his statement that he will not run for reelection. It’s a promise he’s repeated consistently since taking over the state’s top executive spot.

Earlier this month, Kansas Democratic Party Chairman Larry Gates said he would not run for governor. Currently, the party does not have a candidate.

Parkinson said a number of other potential and “very interesting” candidates have surfaced but he wouldn’t name anyone.

“This is one of those things where time will tell and I continue to predict that we will have a strong and competitive candidate for governor,” he said.

Governor cuts K-12, higher ed and more to fill $160 million shortfall

TOPEKA – The governor on Thursday used $90 million in cuts to the state budget and various accounting maneuvers to fill a $160 million shortfall.

The move comes the day after fiscal year 2010 began and includes a 2 percent reduction to general state aid for kindergarten through 12th grade. Higher education also saw another 2 percent, or $15 million taken from its budget.

“There is no way to spin this that this is not going to create pain for them,” said Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat.

The state budget has already been cut three times since January, and this time departments who had watched their money disappear previously – such as the Department of Corrections – were left untouched.

While Parkinson’s moves eliminated a further $90.6 million, he leaned on more money coming from the federal government, delayed projects and other money sources to add $69.3 million back into the budget. The proposal does not include any tax increases or delay anticipated tax decreases.

Included in that portion of the proposal is:

  • $30 million in delayed road maintenance programs from the Department of Transportation

  • $2.8 million taken from the Health Care Stabilization Fund,

  • $4.15 million no longer needed to make Cessna bond payments.

The governor said he hoped the cuts would be enough to keep the budget in the black.

On Monday, Parkinson also said he plans to ask the State Finance Council to allow the state to borrow $700 million from its self to cover payments due in July.

Other cuts to the budget include:

  • 2 percent, or $641,512, reduction to Department of Health & Environment

  • 2 percent, or $132,477, cut to the School for the Blind

  • 2 percent, or $196,395, cut to the School for the Deaf

  • Eliminating $50,000 in grants for the Arts Commission.

Parkinson also gave his office, the lieutenant governor’s office and the Attorney General’s office 2 percent cuts totaling almost $250,000. He also asked Legislative Agencies, which include research, post audit and the Legislature to cut $540,000.

For more, read Friday’s Wichita Eagle.

Parkinson requests disaster designation for Cowley, Sumner and Cherokee counties

TOPEKA – The governor Friday asked the federal government to help farmers impacted by this year’s harsh weather in Cowley, Summer and Cherokee counties.

“Declaring these counties agricultural disasters will allow farmers to apply for emergency loans administered by the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. These loans can help Kansas farms recover from impact that severe weather has had on crops,” wrote Gov. Mark Parkinson said.

Parkinson, a Democrat, asked U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to declare the three counties agricultural disaster areas due to excessive rain, flooding, high winds and a freeze that occurred between late March and the end of May.

Three Wichitans appointed to WSU board of trustees

TOPEKA – The governor on Wednesday named three Wichitans to sit on Wichita State University’s Board of Trustees.

Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, reappointed Tony Madrigal and appointed Vernell Jackson and Tom Winters to the board.

The board manages property and funds the university receives through donations and other means.

Our universities and colleges greatly contribute to the prosperity of Kansas,” Parkinson said. “Administering the resources provided to Wichita State University is crucial to the success of the university, its students and the entire state. I am confident in the board’s abilities and grateful for their dedication.”

Jackson retired more than a year ago as a senior vice president of Administration for Spirit AeroSystems, Inc. He graduated cum laude from WSU with a bachelor’s degree and holds a master’s degree in business management. Jackson is active in the Wichita community as a member of the YMCA Wichita Black Achievers Program and serves on the boards of directors for Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the Wichita Community Foundation.

Winters is a former Sedgwick County Commissioner and has served on several boards, including the Wichita Area Technical College Advisory Board, the Workforce Alliance Board and the Information Network of Kansas Board.

Gov. Parkinson joins the blogosphere

TOPEKA – “Welcome to my first actual blog,” wrote Gov. Mark Parkinson yesterday.

In the post Parkinson, a Democrat, said he decided to start blogging when he became governor at the end of April “to provide you a glimpse of what it is like to serve as Governor and to give insight into what happens in our office every day.”

The blog comes up with the governor’s website.

In the mostly biographical initial offer Parkinson promised he’d be the one writing the posts, “this isn’t something that a staffer is writing to try to make me look good.”

He also promised he, and other posters, would try not to be boring or politically correct and “we’ll try not to use political speak (lots of words that say nothing, but sound good).”

Coach Snyder for lieutenant governor? It could have happened

Could former K-State football coach Bill Snyder have helped lead the state like he lead the Wildcat?

Snyder, on Wednesday, told the Winfield Purple Pack Catbackers that former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, offer him the lieutenant governor’s position in 2006, the Winfield Daily Courier is reporting.

He told the Wildcat supporters that he turned the offer down after consulting with former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne and Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts.

Eventually, Sebelius offer the position to current Gov. Mark Parkinson who assumed her duties when Sebelius became the Health and Human Services Secretary in late April.

The full story is available here.