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Topeka tax debate has many concerned about furloughs

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TOPEKA, Kan. - The budget battle in Topeka is getting real for thousands of Kansas employees. Sunday is the deadline for lawmakers to reach a compromise, and it's also the day that those thousands of state employees will find out if they will be furloughed due to a Kansas government shutdown.

The Kansas Organization of State Employees, or KOSE, represents more than 9,000 state workers, and if lawmakers can't reach a decision, those 9,000 employees face the possibility of losing money.

"Everybody is very, very worried about this," said Rebecca Proctor from KOSE.

Proctor says, however, that emergency furloughs shouldn't even be allowed to happen. A regulation passed by the state in 2014, allows emergency furloughs, but it reportedly violates another contract.

"Our problem with how this is being done is the contract that covers the around 9,000 employees we represent has different language, and doesn't allow for this sort of emergency furlough. Under the language in our contract, there's supposed to be a 30 day notice for any furlough and a furlough plan,” said Proctor.

So if furloughs happen, KOSE promises to take legal action and try to get the money back employees lost. Lawmakers say they hope, even after 105 days in session, that an agreement will be reached in time.

"The legislators do not take a tax increase lightly. They take it very seriously," said Marvin Kleeb, a Republican Representative for Kansas.

"We don't believe that state employees should be utilized as political pawns and be put in fear of losing their jobs while the budget process is stuck where it’s at," said Tom Burroughs, a Democratic Representative for Kansas.

But for state employees, the holdup is unnerving.

"Our employees have a really hard time with the fact that they're going to be potentially furloughed and not receive their pay when the legislature can't get its job done in a timely manner and continues to be paid," Proctor explained.

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