Representatives of retired faculty and classified employees at Kansas University say they oppose a bill before the Kansas Senate that would tax all retirement benefits.
A Senate bill that would tax pensions of retired government workers appears to penalize those who choose public service jobs as a career, a local representative of a retired university faculty organization said Friday.
"To tax retirement in an age when retirement is not what it used to be seems punitive," said Felix Moos, a member of the state executive committee of the Association of American University Professors State Conference.
Sen. Gus Bogina, R-Shawnee, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, introduced the bill. It is designed to put government employees on par with private sector retirees, whose pensions are now taxed by the state.
Mike Auchard, president of the KU Classified Senate, said Bogina's reasoning about fairness is invalid because state civil service employees make less than their private sector counterparts who have similar jobs.
Auchard said the last time the state compared private sector wages with those in the public sector was in 1985.
"If they did another study they would find that civil service wages haven't kept up," Auchard said. "My feeling is if they are going to tax government pensions, then they should enhance those pensions before they do so. When those pensions were started, they were started with the idea they wouldn't be taxed."
The bill would allow all retirees to deduct an additional $2,000 from their gross incomes when they compute their income taxes. Bogina said because of that provision, the state would not receive any extra revenue from retirees.
Moos, a Kansas University anthropology professor, said he hasn't read the text of Bogina's bill, but similar efforts to tax the pensions of government workers failed last year.
Moos said he would oppose the concept of taxing pensions.
"The mood in the country is obviously against new taxes," he said. "But somehow revenues have to be raised. And that contradiction has to be resolved somehow."
Auchard said representatives of KU classified employees will bring their concerns to state legislators on Feb. 7, joining classified employees from other regents schools that day.
Two Lawrence legislators said Friday they don't think the House and the Senate are in the mood to place taxes on pensions.
"There's not a very positive mood about adding taxes. Everybody wants to cut," said Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence.
However, Praeger said the issue of treating government and private sector retirees fairly is a valid point. She said she would have to study the bill before she makes up her mind.
Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, said he would reserve judgment on the bill.
"I'm not going to get excited about this bill until or when it passes the Senate and comes over to the House," he said.