Kansas is on the brink of collapse … but what about K-State?

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(Illustration by Iris LoCoco | The Collegian)

Amidst a budget crisis that has not been resolved for weeks, K-State employees faced the prospect of mandatory leave without pay, or furloughs, if state legislators failed to produce a budget by the end of last Saturday.

K-State had set up a page to help employees understand how the process will affect the university. All nonessential employees would have been furloughed, such as student workers.

On Saturday, hours before the furlough would have taken effect, state legislators approved of a bill declaring all state workers to be essential. However, the state Congress, led by an overwhelming Republican majority, still failed to come up with a budget by Wednesday.

Employees at risk of being furloughed were sent an email June 5 by their respective department heads.

In an email sent to the IT staff, Ken Stafford, vice provost for IT Services and chief information officer said the department would have kept few employees on staff to ensure classes, conferences and research was not disrupted.

“It is our responsibility to keep the technology working to support those activities,” Stafford wrote. “We will keep a bare minimum of ITS staff on site to keep systems and functions directly related to the educational, research and service missions working.”

After a tax plan passed the Senate by just one vote last Sunday night, members of the House called a recess only two minutes after the bill had been introduced there Monday afternoon.

According to WIBW-TV, the bill hadn’t been printed out for members to read when it was brought to the floor for debate.

“When we got here, we were supposed to see something on our desk to read the bill,” Rep. Ken Corbet, R-Topeka, said to WIBW. “They say it’s about 117 pages long, and we have not seen anything in print yet.”

The Senate plan included an increase on the cigarette tax from 79 cents to $1.29, and a raise of the state sales tax from 6.15 percent to 6.55 percent – including utilities and gasoline prices.

While legislators failed to act last week, concerns over what services would remain open at K-State came to the forefront. Steve Martini, director of recreational services, said the recreational complex would have remained open even if furloughs took place.

“Students pay to have access to the building,” Martini said. “Some people, some faculty buy memberships, so it’s important that we keep it open for them.”

Jeff Morris, vice president of communications and marketing, said the determination of who would have been furloughed came down to job function.

“It’s really what needs to be done is essential,” Morris said. “People who are responsible for core functions like safety, teaching, taking care of animals and ongoing research projects.”

Shawn Sullivan, the state’s budget director, said on Monday that Kansas would have to cut more education spending, reduce payments to health care providers and lay off prison guards if taxes were not increased, according to the Associated Press.

Gov. Sam Brownback has previously said that he would veto any budget that would undo the 2012 elimination of income taxes for certain businesses. Brownback has long had a connection to Charles and David Koch, CEO and executive vice president of Koch Industries, respectively.

During his run in the U.S. Senate, the company was Brownback’s largest donor. David Koch chairs the board of directors of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group that favors the tax exemptions.

In an interview with the Wichita Eagle, Jeff Glendening, AFP’s state director, said the tax exemption was good for small business.

Although Koch Industries does not qualify for exemption, many of its subsidiaries do, such as Koch Energy Services and Koch Agronomic Services.

According to the Wichita Eagle, Brownback said in an interview last December that he does not believe Koch Industries has a lot of political sway in Kansas.

“I don’t think they have an extraordinary influence,” Brownback said. “They express themselves like any other company of their size in this state.”

When reached for comment, Brownback’s office said the governor was unavailable.

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