Sebelius calls Budget Impasse "Ludicrous"

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Gov. Kathleen Sebelius calls a budget impasse that is jeopardizing state employees' next paycheck "ludicrous.''

The Democratic governor also questioned Tuesday whether Republican legislative leaders are trying to shut down state government "in a fit of pique.''

Kansas is suspending income tax refunds and may not be able to pay its employees on time.

The state is short money in its bank account. The State Finance Council was scheduled to meet Monday to consider Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' request for $225 million in certificates of indebtedness - basically, borrowing money to cover a cash flow shortage.

But Republican leaders told the Governor they weren't ready to say yes, so the meeting was cancelled, drawing anger from Democrats.

"This was about as irresponsible as I've seen," Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said. "It's blackmail at worst, coersion at best."

Democrats say Republicans are trying to force the Governor to sign a budget-balancing bill on the way to her desk. GOP leaders say the bill does hold the answer to their question. They say research staff confirms certificates of indebtedness can't be legally issued unless you can show the money would be there to repay them. House Speaker Mike O'Neal said until the bill is signed and lawmakers know how much money is available, they can't saywhat the state's financial status will be by June 30th to know what legal amount of certificates may be approved.

Legislative leaders hope paperwork is done so the budget bill gets to the Governor's desk by late Tuesday. They say they are ready to get the finance council back together once she decides on any possible line item vetos.

"We fully expect the bills will be paid and in a lawful manner," O'Neal said. "We were trying to save embarrassment."

But Democrats say it's a dangerous gamble.

"The Republicans are playing a game of Russian roulette," Henlsey said.

In a briefing, Budget Director Duane Goossen said 40,000 state workers are in danger of not getting paychecks Friday if the Finance Council doesn't act. He also disagrees with Republicans, saying he knows of no legal issues that would prevent approval of the certificates.

Goossen said state income tax refunds were suspended Friday because of lack of money.

Sebelius released a statement, expressing disappointment in the inaction. She also said that if Republicans had approved the full amount she'd requested in December, the state wouldn't be in this situation.

Complete statments from the Governor, State Treasurer, and KS Organization of State Employees are attached.