Kansas Pension Officials: State’s Plan to Delay Pension Payments Could Cost Billions in Long-Run


Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback in December diverted a $58 million payment from the pension system and used the money to plug holes in the state’s general budget.

The governor is seeking to delay more state payments to the pension fund, and is also looking to offset some of the costs by issuing pension obligation bonds.

But pension officials told lawmakers Tuesday that such a decision could end up costing the state between $3.7 billion and $9 billion in the long run.

From the Kansas City Star:

Changes to the state’s pension system proposed by Gov. Sam Brownback could cost Kansas $3.7 billion in the long run, lawmakers learned Tuesday.

The governor seeks to delay payments intended to shore up the state’s pension system to save money in the short term.

The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System faced an unfunded liability of $9.8 billion at the beginning of 2014. The state was on pace to pay it down to zero by 2033 because of reforms enacted during Brownback’s first term.

Instead, Brownback proposed Friday to pay down the unfunded liability more slowly, by 2043, to save money during the ongoing state budget crisis.

“It’s like the mortgage on your house. If you pay less, you’re going to pay longer and you’re going to pay more,” Alan Conroy, the executive director of KPERS, told the House Appropriations Committee.

The delay would increase costs overall by $9.1 billion. But Brownback proposes issuing $1.5 billion in bonds, and the profits from the interest on those bonds would partially offset that cost.

Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, a Kansas City, Kan., Democrat, said the state was undoing the progress it had made in reforming the pensions system.

“It costs us $9 billion with a B (to enact the governor’s plan). … So we’re doubling what we have now? We’re doubling our unfunded actuarial liability?” Wolfe Moore said. “We’re going in exactly the wrong direction as far as I can see.”

Kansas PERS was 56.4 percent as of the end of 2013.


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