Gov. Sam Brownback said Saturday he will sign a bill to keep state workers who had faced furloughs on the job.
But Brownback said if the gridlocked Legislature doesn’t pass a budget soon, those workers might go unpaid, which could land the state in legal trouble.
“If the Legislature does not pass a budget and tax policy, it leaves the state with no authority to disburse funds, including salaries,” Brownback said in a prepared statement on Senate Bill 11. “SB11 means that employees will work without the guarantee of being paid for that work. That is potentially in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.”
The bill provides a possible reprieve for 24,000 public workers deemed “nonessential” who received furlough notices Friday. That includes thousands at the University of Kansas Medical Center and health-related state agencies like the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Those agencies had been preparing to pare services, with KDHE saying that in case of furloughs, Kansans would be unable to access birth, death, marriage or divorce certificates from the Office of Vital Statistics as of Monday.
Democrats had proposed a different bill earlier in the week to appropriate $200 million to temporarily pay state workers.
But under SB 11, all state workers were deemed essential — and therefore not subject to furlough — but no money was set aside to pay them.
“Every state employee is essential to our success and provides needed services to the citizens of the state,” Brownback said. “All state employees should report to work as normal beginning Sunday, June 7, even though the Legislature has not yet passed a bill authorizing expenditures.”
If the Legislature cannot soon come up with enough tax revenue to balance the budget that begins July 1, the governor made it clear that the potential for furloughs still exists because the state will face serious cash flow problems.
“It is past time for the Legislature to act,” the governor said.
But lawmakers showed few signs of being close to a tax deal. On Saturday, the 40-member Senate mustered just five votes for a tax plan negotiated by a conference committee — the third plan from the committee in two days to be soundly rejected.
The Legislature’s Republican supermajorities are split into several factions on tax and spending policy, and thus far Democrats have largely stayed out of the fray.