Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed a plan that would cut the state’s annual contribution to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System by $40 million this fiscal year.
The money would be used to plug budget shortfalls elsewhere.
From the Topeka Capital-Journal:
Gov. Sam Brownback defended cutting contributions to state worker retirement plans Wednesday — a necessary step, he argued, to protect education spending — as he called for an overhaul of the state’s school finance formula.
Facing opposition from some quarters of his own party, the governor acknowledged cuts to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) will slow progress made on the system over the past few years. But he pushed back against critics who had previously predicted financial trouble for the state.
As part of $280 million in cuts and fund transfers announced Tuesday, Brownback will reduce the KPERS employer contribution level to 9.5 percent, from its current level of more than 12 percent. The administration expects to save $40 million through the reduction.
Several lawmakers expressed their disappointment with the proposal. From Salina.com:
[Steven] Johnson, R-Assaria, who is chairman of the House Pensions and Benefits Committee, was “not happy” with Tuesday’s proposal by Gov. Sam Brownback to cut the state’s pension contribution this year by $40 million as part of a plan to close a $280 million shortfall in the state budget.
And he’s not alone, even among Republicans.
“There’s no easy solution,” Johnson said Wednesday, “but I’m not happy with what they’re doing with KPERS.”
Late Wednesday afternoon, Kansas Treasurer Ron Estes, who campaigned with Brownback across the state just before the November election, released a statement critical of the planned KPERS cuts.
“While I understand the need to re-balance the budget in light of unexpected shortfalls, the decision to delay state contributions to our underfunded pension system is disappointing,” Estes wrote in the statement. “By delaying action now, we run the risk of KPERS consuming an even larger amount of our state’s budget at the expense of other vital state services to Kansans in the future.”
Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, who led KPERS reform in the Senate, said, “Over the last four years, Kansas has become the model for responsible pension reform. We inherited a pension system that was going broke and returned it to fiscal health. By raiding the KPERS fund instead of continuing prudent reform, Gov. Brownback is threatening to undo all of the hard-fought gains that we have made.”
Kansas PERS manages over $14 billion in assets.
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