Kansas lawmakers approved a 5% pay rise for state employees as part of a nearly $22 billion budget plan, which was sent to Governor Laura Kelly on Friday.
The rise in workers’ wages is the first since 2018, after lawmakers last year passed improved wages for most public employees. The increase is expected to cost $145 million in total, including about $50 million from the state’s general fund.
Senator Rick Billinger, R-Goodland, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the issue has taken on added importance given historical levels of inflation.
“We understand that we need to make sure we get better pay for all state employees so they can afford to deal with inflation on their own, let alone just earn a living,” Billinger said. . “I think the big difference is that we realize we have to take care of our people.”
The increase will not apply to lawmakers, the state judiciary and hourly workers at state hospitals and prisons affected by a pay increase implemented in November.
“We’re putting real money behind some of the things we need to invest in,” said Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, D-Kansas City. “At the top of that list was a 5% raise for employees, our most valuable assets.
The bill locks in much of state spending, though some key items will be postponed until lawmakers return to Topeka in early May to wrap up their legislative work.
The budget also includes $1.4 million to raise Kansas Highway Patrol pay, as well as an additional $11 million to purchase new planes for the agency.
Lawmakers approve boost to pension fund
In separate legislation, the Kansas House approved an effort to deposit $854 million into Kansas’ public employee retirement system, an effort to shore up the state’s pension fund.
Democrats and retirees were disappointed the measure did not include a cost-of-living adjustment for those currently receiving pension checks, something that hasn’t happened since the 1990s.
This decision significantly increases the pension’s funded ratio, which will likely exceed 80% with the bill. This will save the state hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years.
“That brings us to 80.1% on the funded ratio for this financial year, so we were able to meet that target,” said Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Assaria, chairman of the House Insurance and Pensions Committee.
Andrew Bahl is a senior reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 443-979-6100.