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Archive for Thursday, March 27, 2003

Pensions of select lawmakers may grow

March 27, 2003

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— The Kansas Legislature is crafting a measure that would increase the pensions of some lawmakers, including state Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence.

The measure could cost taxpayers several thousand dollars, but Ballard and the other affected lawmakers say they only want what is fair.

Ballard has been a lawmaker for 10 years and is an associate vice provost at KU. During the legislative session, she said, she takes an unpaid leave of absence. And for years that meant the university didn't contribute to her retirement plan during the session.

But the law was changed in 2001, so that legislators who also are employees of regents universities may elect to have the Kansas Board of Regents make contributions to the regents retirement plan while they are serving in the Legislature.

This year's proposed bill would go even further. The bill would allow the employee to have the institution make retroactive contributions to the regents retirement plan for legislative service prior to Jan. 8, 2001.

Ballard said she wasn't involved in lobbying for the bill or testifying in favor of it, but was interested in its passage out of fairness to herself and future employees of regents institutions who may serve in the Legislature.

"I just want the same benefits that everyone else is getting," Ballard said.

A fiscal note for the bill indicates it would cost less than $20,000 for the regents institutions to pay for the retirement benefits. Lawmakers familiar with the bill say it would affect Ballard and Rep. Joe McLeland, R-Wichita, who is an employee at Wichita State University.

In the Senate, the bill was amended in a subcommittee by Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, to permit retired members of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System who serve in the Legislature to choose an 8 percent deferred compensation plan because they are ineligible for further KPERS benefits.

The 8 percent plan is available to approximately 100 state employees who are Cabinet members and other top management staff. A fiscal note for this portion of the bill, which would affect a handful of legislators, indicates it would cost less than $10,000.

Sen. Larry Salmans, R-Hanston, is one of the legislators who would benefit from the deal; he is a retired employee of Larned State Hospital. Salmans said the contribution would be so minuscule under the bill "it's almost a moot point."

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