Topeka 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.
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.
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.
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.