Guest Commentary

Gov. Laura Kelly puts KPERS funding at risk

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s first legislative session has made one thing clear: The new governor has declared war on KPERS, the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.

Kelly’s first proposed budget included cuts approaching $500 million in contributions to the mandatory pension plan for eligible public employees. Further, the budget proposal did not include a way to make up for a payment of $115 million to the program that had been skipped in the 2016 budget.

Showing fiscal responsibility, the Republican-led Legislature first blocked these indefensible cuts in budget committees and during floor debates. When Kelly came back with the same cuts of close to half a billion dollars, including reamortizing the program, the Kansas House defeated it again.

When she signed the state’s $18 billion budget on Monday, Kelly vetoed the last of three scheduled supplemental payments to the fund she had negotiated. Yet she and other Democrats continue to blame Republicans for problems with the budget.

The facts are these: Sam Brownback is no longer Kansas’ governor. His tax policies are no longer in effect, and have now been repealed for more than two years. A Democrat now sits at the governor’s desk. She needs to take responsibility for the budget.

Projections show Kansas’ tax revenues will exceed $7 billion in each of the next three fiscal years. This is the time to use that money to rectify problems and assure the state’s teachers a solid retirement system — not for new spending.

Jim Denning is Kansas Senate Majority Leader.