Kansas Seeks to Study Pension Privatization

Kansas Seal

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s team is reportedly exploring options to improve the long-term sustainability of the state’s pension systems.

One option on the table: privatization.

From the Associated Press:

Two top aides to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback proposed Friday that Kansas study privatizing the pension system for teachers and government workers.

Budget Director Shawn Sullivan and Secretary of Administration Jim Clark told a joint legislative committee on pensions that “reform options” for bolstering the public pension system’s long-term health should be examined. Their list included converting pension benefits into annuities managed by a private insurer.

“It’s an idea worth pursuing,” Sullivan said after presenting the proposal to lawmakers.

The committee urged Brownback’s aides to gather more information about private companies’ experiences with such moves and present it once legislators open their next annual session Jan. 12.

[…]

Clark said with converting pension obligations into annuities, a private company assumes the long-term financial risks for a fee, while the state can provide competitive benefits at a lower cost.

At least one lawmaker and one union leader weighed in on the idea. Reported by AP:

Rep. Steve Johnson, an Assaria Republican, said the idea has merit, but, “I am not optimistic that there would be a buyer of that liability at a lower cost.”

And Rebecca Proctor, interim executive director of the largest union for Kansas government employees, said private companies’ need for profits would compete with the pension system’s drive “to generate benefits for employees.”

“Any time you put a profit motive in a state service, it’s a problem,” she said.

Last week, Gov. Brownback proposed cutting the state’s pension payment by $41 million to plug budget holes elsewhere.

 

Photo credit: “Seal of Kansas” by [[User:Sagredo|. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

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