Government & Politics

Delay in paying Kansas public pension liability would cost state an extra $3.7 billion, director says

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 Gov. Sam Brownback’s first term. Instead, Brownback proposed to pay down the unfunded liability more slowly, by 2043, to save money during the budget crisis.
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 Gov. Sam Brownback’s first term. Instead, Brownback proposed to pay down the unfunded liability more slowly, by 2043, to save money during the budget crisis. 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.”

Conroy said the governor’s decision to take $58 million out of KPERS in December to help plug a $279 million budget hole for the current fiscal year should not prevent the state from paying off its unfunded liability by 2033. But he said that would cost the state an additional $76.7 million over 20 years.

KPERS provides retirement benefits for state workers, public school teachers and most local government workers.

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