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Kansas budget negotiators consider $250 bonus instead of raise for state employees

By Dion Lefler

The Wichita Eagle

(MCT)

TOPEKA -- Instead of raises, state employees would get a one-time $250 bonus this year under a proposal advanced by House budget negotiators Thursday morning.

House members of a six-legislator conference committee on the budget also proposed $500,000 in grants to the Department of Commerce to promote world trade and information technology.

The offers came as the committee tries to hammer out details of an approximately $14.6 billion budget.

The talks are being held in the wake of news that April income that fell about $93 million short of projections.

Overall this year, the state has taken in about $480 million less than last year.

Gov. Sam Brownback blames the national economic climate and President Obama's policies for the shortfall.

Democrats say the blame lies with deep income tax cuts made by Brownback and the conservative Republican-dominated Legislature.

Brownback originally proposed a 1.5 percent raise for employees.

The bonuses proposed in the conference committee would be in lieu of raises.

Under the proposal, state employees with at least one year on the job would get an extra $250 in their pay in December, conferees said.

The bonuses would cost the state $11.3 million overall, $4.5 million of that from the state general fund.

The proposed grants to the Commerce Department would be $250,000 each.

The global trade grants would be used to help market Kansas products to the world.

"We make a lot of fine products in this state," but small manufacturers have difficulty navigating world markets, said Rep. Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita and chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

The other grant would go to help Kansas companies catch up with Missouri firms in information technology, said Rep. Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park and vice chairman of Appropriations.

Wyandotte and Johnson County firms would be the prime beneficiaries, Kleeb said.

(c)2014 The Wichita Eagle