July 22, 2014

OPINION: State workers get a bonus; Kansas borrows from itself

State workers are getting a raise, but not everyone is happy about it.
Last week, Gov. Sam Brownback and legislators approved a $4.5 million expenditure that will give $250 bonuses to state workers. The one-time $250 bonuses will be given to full-time state employees who have worked for the state of Kansas for the previous 12 months. The bonuses will be included in Dec. 5, 2014 payroll.
Brownback is pleased.
“My administration, unlike some before it, is paying its bills on time and in full. All signs continue to point to a growing Kansas economy with more than 53,000 new jobs created and more Kansans in the workforce than ever before,” the Governor said in a press release. “I am also pleased that our state employees will receive this $250 bonus, as requested by the legislature.”
Anthony Hensley, Senate Majority Leader, told the Associated Press that state workers may be offended by the small bonuses and no pay raises.
We’re not very happy about it either, but for a very different reason.
First, any state employee who is insulted by getting a bonus should consider working elsewhere, especially considering the funding for those bonuses was essentially snatched out of the pockets of Kansans in the private sector.
While it’s true, state employees haven’t had pay increases since 2009, most in the private sector share that reality.
The state needs to get its finances in order before it starts handing out money to people for simply doing the job they were hired to do.
The same day that the State Finance Council approved bonuses, they also agreed to borrow $675 million to cover expenses during low-revenue periods in 2015. And while that’s not unusual – the state has borrowed issued certificates of indebtedness to cover expenses until revenues catch-up since 2000 – it’s time the state figured out a way to get off that carousel. It’s akin to borrowing from a 401K to get through a tight spot until pay day, and there is no reason the state needs to continue the practice.
Slow spending. Maybe all bonuses should be tied to finding savings in operating budgets and creating efficiencies in their own departments, at least until the state can fund its activities with revenues already in the till.
In principle, we oppose across-the-board bonuses. The hardest working, most efficient staff should receive bonuses. We support merit-based pay increases and bonuses.
We realize that’s not how it works, but just because something has always been one way, that doesn’t mean it can’t be changed.
Instead of legislators attempting to budget a massive amount of money for across-the-board raises and bonuses, they should be considering ways to reward those employees who go above and beyond the call of duty.

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