Legislators Under Fire for Granting Themselves Substantial Pay Hike Prior to Approving Major Budget Legislation

Legislators Under Fire for Granting Themselves Substantial Pay Hike Prior to Approving Major Budget Legislation

Kansas lawmakers passed another year’s worth of funding for most state agencies and services on Friday. This came after a few lawmakers protested in public at the last minute about their 93% pay raise that is coming next year.

The Senate, which is run by Republicans, passed a bill 26–12 that spends about $19 billion for the state’s 2025 budget year, which starts July 1. It pays for most of the spending except for money to help the state’s public schools, which is in a different bill that has been held up.

The Senate’s vote came hours after the House, which is ruled by Republicans, passed the bill 78–44. Now it goes to Gov. Laura Kelly, who is a Democrat. Even though she’s likely to sign the bill, the state law gives her the power to veto specific spending bills, which she has done many times before.

All state government workers would get a 5% pay raise, and public safety workers and workers whose pay has lagged behind their peers in the private sector would get bigger raises. But those raises aren’t even close to the pay raise lawmakers will get at the beginning of 2025 thanks to a law passed last year that doesn’t require them to vote on the raise.

People who didn’t like the pay raise were able to get the Senate to add a clause to the next state budget that would delay the pay raise for at least another year. It wasn’t in the final form of Friday’s spending bill because of disagreements between the House and Senate. This caused opponents to voice concerns about the difference between the 93% raise for lawmakers and the 5% raise for most state workers.

“People don’t trust politicians,” said Republican Sen. Rob Olson, who lives in the Kansas City area. “This is the reason why.”

The lawmakers were going to take a spring break starting early Saturday morning. They would be back on April 25 for the last five days of the session.

For three years, Kansas has had a lot of money coming in. With the spending plan that was passed on Friday, the state will still have more than $3.7 billion left over at the end of June 2025.

Tax cuts are wanted by Kelly and lawmakers, but a plan to do so that she and GOP leaders came up with Thursday failed. A new plan was made by negotiators in the House and Senate on Friday evening to cut income, sales, and property taxes by more than $1.5 billion over three years. However, Will Lawrence, Kelly’s chief of staff, said it “far exceeds” what she thinks is reasonable.

Also, lawmakers haven’t passed a bill that would spend $6 billion on the K–12 public school system. Between $240 million and $320 million, or 4.9% to 6.5%, more money will be sent to the state’s 286 school systems. But the Senate threw out one plan on December 26 because of disagreements over policies for special education. This meant that lawmakers had to try to write a new version.

In the bill that paid for other parts of the budget, there were parts added by GOP senators that were meant to force Kelly to help Texas in its fight with the Biden administration over border security and limit diversity programs on college campuses.

The House and Senate agreed not to put off the pay raise for lawmakers.

Last year, a bipartisan committee made up mostly of former lawmakers said that lawmakers are paid too little and that this keeps younger, less wealthy, and people of color from running for office. The rule that set up the commission said that the pay raise could happen unless both houses of Congress turned it down by early February, which they didn’t do.

Legislators will get an extra almost $28,000 a year, bringing their total pay from $30,000 to almost $58,000 a year, which includes daily cost reimbursements while the legislature is in session. Because of their jobs, legislative leaders get extra pay. The House speaker and Senate president will now make more than $85,000 a year, up from $44,000.

For the pay raise, Republican Rep. Chuck Smith of southeastern Kansas praised the work of the chairs of the House budget committee and a committee on K–12 spending during the debate in the House.

Smith said, “We should thank these people for what they do.” I can’t believe the high standards of the people here.

In the Senate, things were very different. Billinger told Olson and Sen. Dennis Pyle, a Republican from northeastern Kansas, that he doesn’t think the big pay raise is right when they asked him a lot of questions about it.

Pyle said, “Something is very, very wrong.” “Kansas is having a bad day.”

National Conference of State Legislatures data show that lawmakers’ pay changes a lot from state to state. The salary in New Hampshire is $100 a year, the same as it was in 1889. In contrast, New Mexico pays $202 a year to cover the costs of lawmakers’ time in office but does not pay an income.

At the start of this year’s annual session, Alaska lawmakers’ pay went from $50,400 to $84,000, a 67% rise. In 2026, New Jersey lawmakers’ pay will also go up by 67%, from $49,000 to $82,000. At the beginning of 2023, lawmakers in New York got a 29% raise, which made their pay the best in the country at $142,000 a year.

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