The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System funding problem is starting to generate a lot of heat.
KPERS suffered $2.3 billion in investment losses this year. No current retirement benefits are in jeopardy, but a report by the Kansas University School of Business Center for Applied Economics called the issue a “funding crisis,” adding that “KPERS is bankrupt under current operating assumptions.”
But State Treasurer Dennis McKinney, who also is a member of the KPERS board of trustees, trashed that report.
The use of the word “bankrupt” was reckless, he said. He said the solution for KPERS is pretty simple, although it will require a lot of political will. The state will have to pay more into the pension system, as will employees, he said.
“Scaring 80-year-old retired teachers is not good policy,” he said.
He said the state has failed for the past 16 years to pay into KPERS what was needed to narrow the actuarial liability. That has produced a shortfall, he said.
But Art Hall, who is executive director of the Center for Applied Economics, defended the report.
“We chose the word ‘bankrupt’ to make crystal clear to Kansas taxpayers the seriousness of the situation. As used in the report, the word clearly means insolvency in a long-run operating context,” he said.
The KU report was done by Barry Poulson, an economics professor at the University of Colorado. Poulson has been described as the architect of TABOR, the so-called Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in Colorado, and has worked on behalf of Americans for Prosperity in trying to push for passage of TABOR in Kansas.
The drive for another comprehensive transportation program starts today with a news conference and release of a report on the “current condition, use and funding of Kansas’ highway transportation system.”
The news conference will be held by Economic Lifelines, which lobbies for highway funding, and a group called TRIP, which promotes transportation projects.
In announcing the news conference, Economic Lifelines said, “Kansas faces a significant transportation funding gap over the next 10 years, which will not only impede efforts to improve roads and other infrastructures, but will also limit the potential for economic recovery.”
The current 10 year, $13 billion highway program ends this year.