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Kansas braces for federal cuts; furloughs expected

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Gov. Sam Brownback assured Kansas residents Wednesday that core government services would remain fully funded, even if automatic federal spending cuts take effect that could force spring furloughs for some 6,650 civilian employees at the state's military bases.

Brownback said agencies are assessing how much money may be at stake in $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts that could be authorized to occur Friday barring a deal. The cuts would not go into effect until March 27, when the current continuing resolution on federal spending expires.

"State agencies have begun examining the potential impact sequestration at the federal level will have on Kansas if it goes into effect," the governor said.

The White House issued a fact sheet on each state, estimating the cuts in federal spending in Kansas at more than $130 million, including grant payments for job training, public health, law enforcement, environmental protection and child care.

The biggest and most immediate impact would be on military operations in Kansas and the potential for furloughs of some 6,650 civilian employees starting in April. Military spending accounts for about 1 percent of the gross state product, or $7.5 billion annually, said John Armbrust, executive director of the Governor's Military Council.

The Army has said civilian employees would be told to take one day off a week for 22 weeks to absorb the budget cuts. Formal notifications are next expected for several weeks.

Salaries of military employees, both direct and indirect, total $5.5 billion, which includes soldiers and contractors, Armbrust said. Civilian employee furloughs would reduce that by $40 million through the remainder of the current federal fiscal year, including an estimated $14 million at Fort Riley, the largest Army post in Kansas.

"It's tough on the individual but it rolls through the community," he said.

Additional cuts in military operations also could mean curtailing some training and travel, Armbrust said, but how the cuts would be implemented hasn't been announced.

Brig. Gen. Donald MacWillie, senior commander of Fort Riley, said the post and the 1st Infantry Division were adjusting to the "new fiscal environment" that will result in adjustments in training, workforce and future contracts.

"We're going to slow some things down at the installation and ensure that everything we do supports our readiness and commitment to our soldiers and families first and foremost," MacWillie said.

He said Fort Riley continued to meet with community leaders to discuss how the funding cuts will impact the region and its economy.

The reductions are separate from programmed military reductions that will shrink the Army from its present 570,000 soldiers to 490,000 soldiers over the next 10 years, part of more than $487 billion in defense cuts.

Some potential impacts on state government include cuts in education programs, such as the federal share of special education services and Title I programs for low-income students.

Dale Dennis, deputy commissioner of education, said the two cuts would total about $10.8 million, but wouldn't be felt until after July 1.

"The remainder of this school year it will have very little effect," Dennis said. "We hope they get things sorted out in Congress."

He said the cuts would be felt in all 286 school districts but would be more severe in districts with high concentrations of poverty. Districts would be able to set aside some funds from the current fiscal year to offset those cuts, Dennis said.

The loss of funds would mean the reduction in the number of teachers, paraprofessionals, summer school days and extended learning time for certain students if a federal solution isn't reached, Dennis said.

"We try to stay a bit behind the curve in case something like this happens," Dennis said.