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Kansas Legislators Slam Large Salary Increase Before Approving Budget Bill

Kansas Legislators (Credits: Fox News)

In Kansas, recent legislative decisions have stirred mixed reactions among the public and lawmakers themselves. On a remarkable Friday, state legislators passed funding for a wide range of state agencies and services for the upcoming fiscal year, beginning July 1.

This move was made beside a whirlwind of controversy, primarily due to a proposed 93% salary increase for the legislators themselves, scheduled for next year.

The approval process wasn’t smooth, marked by public dissent from a few lawmakers. Despite the resistance, the Republican-dominated Senate passed the bill with a 26-12 vote, authorizing roughly $19 billion for the state’s 2025 budget. This budget, however, does not encompass funding for public schools, which is addressed in a separate yet-to-be-finalized bill.

Kansas is poised to boost legislators’ pay (Credits: AP News)

The bill’s journey through the legislature was rapid. It received approval from the GOP-led House before moving to the Senate. It now awaits the signature of Democrat Governor Laura Kelly, who, while expected to endorse the bill, has the constitutional right to veto specific spending items—a power she has exercised in the past.

An aspect of the bill is providing a 5% salary boost for all state government workers, with higher increases for public safety employees and those whose salaries have not kept pace with the private sector. Yet, this increase pales compared to the staggering 93% raise lawmakers are set to receive—a move that did not require a direct vote due to legislation enacted last year.

The discrepancy between the lawmakers’ raise and that of state workers has sparked criticism and fueled distrust toward politicians, as Senator Rob Olson has voiced. Besides these financial decisions, Kansas is in a comfortable fiscal position, boasting over $3.7 billion in surplus funds by June 2025, thanks to years of robust revenue.

Governor Kelly and legislators have shown interest in reducing taxes, but consensus efforts have stumbled. A proposed tax cut plan aiming to reduce income, sales, and property taxes by over $1.5 billion over three years was deemed too costly by Kelly’s administration.

Lawmakers criticize a big pay raise for themselves (Credits: AP News)

Education funding remains another unresolved issue, with a $6 billion allocation for K-12 schools still under negotiation. This funding is crucial as it promises an aid increase of 4.9% to 6.5% for the state’s school districts, contingent on resolving disagreements over special education policies.

Additionally, the budget includes GOP senators’ initiatives to influence Governor Kelly’s stance on border security and diversity programs in colleges, reflecting the political undercurrents affecting budgetary decisions.

Despite the contentious nature of the legislative pay raise, it reflects a broader trend of adjusting lawmaker compensation, viewed by some as necessary to attract diverse candidates to state legislatures. Yet, the manner of its approval and the timing, besides other fiscal challenges, highlight the complex dynamics in state politics and governance.

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