Topeka Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday continued his effort to shrink the government payroll by offering incentives to state employees eligible to retire.
A leading union official, however, said the administration failed to meet its legal obligations in the offer.
“Reducing spending through the voluntary retirement incentive program is one method of helping the state live within its means," Brownback said. The state will not replace many of those people who retire, officials said.
The Kansas Organization of State Employees said the state was required to meet with KOSE to discuss the issue “in good faith” before rolling it out.
KOSE Executive Director Jane Carter said that her organization is not opposed to voluntary retirement plans in general but that the Brownback administration hasn’t taken into account the impact that the loss of jobs would have after the recent elimination of 2,000 unfilled positions.
“Some departments across the state, already crippled by budget cuts, are so under-staffed, employees are working shifts of 16 hours or more, multiple times during a work week,” Carter said, citing employee turnover at state hospitals as an example.
Secretary of Administration Dennis Taylor said the administration was under no obligation to get agreement with KOSE before proposing the plan. KOSE and the Brownback administration are meeting Aug. 10 on the issue.
Taylor said about 4,000 of the state's 24,000 employees, who are currently eligible for full or early retirement, would be eligible for the incentive program.
He didn’t want to estimate how many would take the state up on its offer, but said under a similar program last year with the city of Topeka, about 30 percent of those eligible left.
Asked if the state would save $25 million in payroll under the plan, Taylor said, “We would expect to do better than that.”
The voluntary program would be available to state retirement-eligible employees who offer to retire with the next 45 days.
As incentives, the state would provide a lump sum payment of $6,500 or continued health insurance coverage.
Under the health insurance option, the state will pay the employer's share of the state employee rate for health insurance up to 60 months for member-only coverage and up to 42 months for member-plus-dependent coverage, or until the employee reaches age 65, whichever comes first.
For the 2011 plan year, the state’s portion of health insurance coverage is $542.24 per month for single coverage, and $793.20 per month for member-plus-dependent coverage.
Taylor said the deal is geared to attract retirement eligible state employees who may be staying on the job to maintain health coverage until they are eligible for Medicare at age 65.
He said the state is taking no position on whether an employee should take the offer.
Eligible employees have until Sept. 2 to make their offer to retire. Those whose offers are accepted will work no later than Sept. 19.
“Employees should contact their personal legal and financial advisers about whether to retire and the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System about eligibility concerns,” Taylor said.
The program is not available to state employees covered under the Correctional KPERS plan, the Kansas Police & Fire plan, or Kansas Department of Labor employees whose salaries are not funded by the state.
More information on the program is at da.ks.gov.