State workers already knew the clock was ticking, but on Sunday they learned time is quickly running out.
Furloughs will begin June 7 for state workers unless the Legislature passes funding, the Kansas budget director said Sunday.
Budget Director Shawn Sullivan told Republican senators that lawmakers must pass and send to the governor budget legislation by 11:59 p.m. Saturday, June 6, or else agencies will have to furlough non-essential personnel.
Sullivan divulged the timeline at a GOP caucus meeting after Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, asked him for an update. After the meeting, Schmidt said the threat of furloughs is very real.
“To bring state government to a screeching halt because the Legislature will be on what day by then – a hundred and whatever it is – and to make state employees, who are working every day for us, providing services for us – what happens in correctional facilities, what happens in our state hospitals?” Schmidt said.
“I mean, government shutdowns on a national level are a different story. I live with the people who aren’t going to be going to work. And I think the public outrage at a government shutdown, a state government shutdown will be tremendous and it should be.”
The timeline from Sullivan comes as the Legislature continues to wrestle with how to find $400 million in either new revenue or spending cuts to balance next year’s budget, which begins July 1.
“Informally, I believe most agencies have been preparing for a worst case scenario as they should but those conversations will continue, at least from my office, on Monday afternoon,” Sullivan said.
While agencies can continue to spend on non-salary expenses until the end of June, their authority to pay workers will expire on June 6 because the state is entering a pay period that extends into the next fiscal year.
Lawmakers could pass a short-term appropriations bill to fund continued pay for state employees, Sullivan said.
“That would give authority to agencies to spend money on payroll and salary. I don’t know anyone thinks that would be a good option,” Sullivan said.
Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sen. Ty Masterson, R-Andover, said he has requested staff to draft a short-term appropriations bill, however. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said he would support a short-term measure to avoid furloughs.
“But it seems to me that this is just a threat to try to pass something, no matter how bad it is, to pass something,” Hensley said.
The administration first raised the possibility of furloughs last week as lawmakers continue to work to address the budget gap.
Under state regulations adopted last year, workers can be furloughed immediately when appropriations lapse. Previously, workers had to be given 30 days of notice. Agencies have the authority to determine which personnel are essential and which are non-essential.
Rebecca Proctor, director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, which represents about 9,000 workers, said that although regulations may allow for emergency furloughs without notice, the contract between KOSE and the state requires 30-day notice.
Proctor said if the state seeks to furlough workers covered by the contract without providing notice it will consider legal action.
“This administration has failed to give our Legislature a true and correct picture of what our obligations actually are,” Proctor said.