Some employees are getting raises this year, courtesy of the Kansas Legislature, but others are getting a tax increase without the benefit of a pay adjustment. When Melika Willoughby, spokesperson for Gov. Brownback, pointed out that some state employee paychecks will be smaller beginning July 1, union officials balked.
“The 2017 legislative session is now over, but the pain to your pocketbook is just beginning,” Willoughby’s email begins. “This legislature made history to the tune of a $1.2 billion tax hike on working Kansans. Then, they did it again, this time with a $13.2 billion budget.”
Robert Choromanski, the executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees union, told public radio that the email was a hyper-partisan, indirect attack on state employees. In a letter to Kansas representatives, Choromanski said employees are “ecstatic” about the tax increase.
“We thank the moderate Republicans, Democrats, and some conservatives in the Kansas Legislature for doing a very difficult, yet right thing in repealing the Governor’s failed and disastrous tax policy of the last five years,” Choromanski’s letter to representatives reads.
Willoughby’s letter to employees said lawmakers increased spending in addition to taking a bite out of paychecks. While some of the additional spending will go to pay increases for a select group of state employees, not all state employees will receive a raise.
The budget lawmakers approved offers raises to:
- judicial staff, who will receive a 2.5 percent increase. That includes judges, who rank among the highest paid employees in the state.
- executive and university staff hired before July 1, 2012, who haven’t received a pay raise since 2012, will receive a 5 percent increase.
- executive and university staff hired since July 1, 2012. Those employees will receive a 2.5 percent increase. University staff who have received a raise since July 1, 2012, will not receive raises. The state budget provision effectively penalizes university staff hired before July 1, 2012, who switched from classified (union represented) to unclassified in order to receive merit increases.
The new budget also increases starting wages at state hospital and corrections facilities. Existing employees at the starting wage will be brought up to that base, but long-time staff will not receive raises.
In his letter, Choromanski said working for the state used to be a symbol of pride before Brownback took office. Choromanski listed a number of ways classified employees have seen their paychecks shrink since then. His list includes increased health insurance premiums and only steps up the pay scale instead of across-the-board raises. Tax increases didn’t make Choromanski’s list, but the recent tax increase was a focal point of Willoughby’s letter to state employees.
“On July 1, the $1.2 billion retroactive tax hike starts and the historic spending begins,” Willoughby wrote. “Your paycheck will be smaller, and state government will be bigger.”