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Archive for Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Statehouse Live: Lawmakers hear about Statehouse project costs

October 13, 2009, 8:51 a.m. Updated October 13, 2009, 4:27 p.m.

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Statehouse Architect Barry Greis on Tuesday tells the House Appropriations Committee that a large portion of the increased cost of the Capitol renovation and expansion project is because of additional work ordered by the Legislature, such as more office space and a parking garage.

Statehouse Architect Barry Greis on Tuesday tells the House Appropriations Committee that a large portion of the increased cost of the Capitol renovation and expansion project is because of additional work ordered by the Legislature, such as more office space and a parking garage.

3:35 p.m.

State programs have been slashed left and right, but the Capitol restoration and expansion project continues.

The pricetag for the project has increased from an estimated $90 million to $285 million.

Much of the increase has been caused by additional work ordered by the Legislature, including adding more than 100,000 square feet of office space and a two-level underground garage, said Statehouse Architect Barry Greis.

Greis told the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday that the project has been closely monitored.

But state Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, said the increased cost was a problem. “It doesn’t make state government look very efficient,” she said.

Art Hall, executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at the Kansas University School of Business, speaks Tuesday to the House Appropriations Committee on a report that the center did on the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.

Art Hall, executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at the Kansas University School of Business, speaks Tuesday to the House Appropriations Committee on a report that the center did on the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.

1:20 p.m.

State Sen. David Wysong, R-Mission Hills, will talk to the Kansas Board of Regents tomorrow and ask the panel to support a statewide public smoking ban.

Over the past few years, Wysong has been the lead legislator in trying to ban indoor smoking at public places, such as restaurants.

A recent study conducted at the Kansas University Medical Center indicates that smoking bans reduce the number of heart attacks by as much as 26 percent.

10:35 a.m.

Describing the Kansas governmental pension system as “bankrupt” was incorrect and frightened retirees, Democrats today told Kansas University’s Art Hall.

Hall, executive director of the Center for Applied Economics in the School of Business, said he regrets if the word “bankrupt” upset any senior citizens, but said it was an accurate description of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.

Hall is pushing for the Legislature to replace the government pension plan with a 401 (k)-style plan.

KPERS has projected a long-term funding gap between its income and expenses, but has said that current pensions are safe. Democratic legislators said the Legislature needs to fund KPERS properly to ensure its fiscal soundness.

Hall said the private sector and some state governments are moving away from the KPERS-style defined benefit plan.

In the report from Hall’s center, KPERS was described as “bankrupt under current operating assumptions.”

During a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, Democrats said that frightened many retirees.

Hall said there was discussion in the Center on the use of that word, and that he decided it was appropriate.

State Rep. Bill Feuerborn, D-Garnett, disagreed. “Maybe you should have gone to a nursing home and ran that word by them,” he said.

State Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, however, defended Hall and said his report provided lawmakers with needed information.

8:50 a.m.

The House budget-writing committee today will continue meeting to get briefed on numerous fiscal issues.

The most controversial is a recent report that described the Kansas government pension system as “bankrupt under current operating assumptions.” The study was done by the Kansas University Center for Applied Economics in the School of Business. Defenders of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System say the study is wrong.

Art Hall, who is executive director of the Center for Applied Economics, is scheduled to speak to the Appropriations Committee.

Other topics before the committee today include overviews of state debt and economic development activity.

In addition the committee will receive status reports on the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp., and the Capitol restoration project.

Comments

Eride 4 years, 6 months ago

"KPERS has projected a long-term funding gap between its income and expenses, but has said that current pensions are safe."

I don't think many people actually understand how pension funds operate which is probably half of the reason why they are historically underfunded (the other half being that they are run by people, in this case politicians, who would rather use money on anything other than the fund).

The legislators use of the term bankrupt is applicable in this case. KPERS does not have enough projected assets to pay off its projected liabilities which is most definitely a definitive use of the term. The democratic legislators pointing out that KPERS can pay off its near term liabilities obviously have no idea what they are talking about. Of course KPERS can pay off its near term liabilities, it better have the assets to do that! It is a flipping pension fund! That isn't the point at all. The question isn't paying liabilities of the fund right now it is paying over the next 10, 15, 20 years. It is the question of paying out to all of the people currently paying into the system when they retire and in that case the system is very much bankrupt.

Maybe instead of whining about the use of diction when someone is discussing a very real problem they should expend their efforts in finding ways to fix the system. And on that matter, the 401k system is a great idea...

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bobberboy 4 years, 6 months ago

If the State fails to fund KPERS like they are suppossed to, I suggest taking the money out of the legislators hides.

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bobberboy 4 years, 6 months ago

Let's see now, which one of our legislators is a Koch goon ? hint - anti-evolution dunce from SW Kansas that wanted to continue to pollute our environment by allowing construction of new coal power plants, hates public employees, employs wife with State funds though, and is generally the type of politician that would have been run out on a rail in the past ? Answers ?

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redfred 4 years, 6 months ago

ockham - the key here is "under current operating assumptions". KPERS is set up for each member to make contributions which they have. It is also set up that each governmental agency make matching contributions which the schools, cities and counties have. However, the state has NOT made their contributions for the last 16 years. If the state does not START making their share and PAYING BACK the monies that it has "borrowed" the system will indeed be in trouble.

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ockhamsrazor 4 years, 6 months ago

Look a little closer at this "study" and at Art Hall...

The study (which was called a “KU study” in the press) came out of the Center for Applied Economics at KU. The center is funded by Koch Industries and under the direction of Art Hall, a former Koch executive. It was written by Barry Poulson, an extreme anti-government agitator from Colorado whose Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) limiting government spending in Colorado nearly destroyed their state services until the voters suspended it in an effort to save their roads, schools, and public safety budgets. So…it’s not a KU study; it’s a Koch study.

As for Art Hall, among his other efforts is “Proposition K,” a property tax limitation for Kansas modeled on California’s famed Proposition 13. Proposition 13 has had such a negative effect on the budget in California that it is a major contributor to the problems faced in closing their budget gap. Hall wrote Proposition K for the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy, a “think tank” looking for ways to starve the state budget here in Kansas. The Flint Hills Center is closely allied with Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a Washington, DC based “think tank” funded primarily through the Kochs that organized the anti-tax “tea parties” and is leading efforts to derail health care reform and global warming initiatives.

Poulson and Hall chose the word “bankrupt” for one purpose – to get media attention.

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