Gov. Kelly feels that it is time to permanently fix KPERS to protect our state employees and retirees. In 1993, the Kansas legislature set up a forty-year plan to fully fund KPERS. While state employees have always paid their share of the plan, the state has not.
Most recently, due to former Gov. Brownback’s fiscal mismanagement and failed tax experiment, KPERS payments were repeatedly late, skipped or missed entirely, leading to Republicans being the first to actually offer re-amortization as an option to save the budget.
Missed payments have caused the state’s payments to balloon, and in a few years, they will be $1 billion per year. Make no mistake — there is no way the state could make these payments.
Gov. Kelly’s plan to restructure KPERS payments is a means for the state to safely pay off our debt to the retirement system without breaking the bank. Contrary to other claims, re-amortization would not add to our current existing balance. Instead, it would make KPERS payments more reasonable, ensuring that payments are actually made, and made on time. It would also allow us to pay off the two most recently delayed payments to KPERS, which amounts to $268.4 million.
Whether or not it’s a popular plan, it’s one that will finally set us on track to fulfill our obligations, as we’ve so often failed to do these last eight years.
Restructuring payments would stabilize state payments and strengthen not only the system itself, but the state budget. It would ensure that Kansas maintains its commitment to Kansas schools, to fund a new comprehensive transportation plan, to lower the sales tax on groceries, and continue rebuilding Kansas government.
Fiscally, Kansas is making a comeback, but we are still in recovery mode and must catch up on providing the necessary resources to our state agencies and institutions. Repeated funding cuts to nearly every state-run department under Brownback left each department in such critical condition that they were unable to properly function.
Additionally, while the governor’s plan to restructure KPERS payments has been continuously criticized by Republicans, they’ve yet to offer any proposal at all as to how we may make these payments and rebuild the state employee retirement system. It appears that partisan disparagement of the Governor is more important to some politicians than actually working for Kansans.
Without re-amortization, KPERS payments will continue to grow, and there will be future missed payments. The Governor’s plan ensures that there will be NO MORE missed payments. It ensures a strong, stable retirement fund.
A bipartisan solution is very achievable.
It’s disappointing to watch partisanship destroy the opportunity to help our loyal state employees. They deserve better.
Tom Sawyer, D-Wichita, is the Kansas House minority leader.