Topeka A commission considering proposals to address long-term financial issues with the state pension system will take its work on the road.
The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System Study Commission soon should begin a series of six public hearings outside of Topeka. A specific schedule of dates and cities hasn’t been set yet.
Co-chairs of the commission sought permission and the accompanying costs of the meetings last week.
“This is not a request that we make lightly or without regard for the financial constraints” facing state leaders, Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, and Rep. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, said in a letter to the Legislative Coordinating Council.
But the co-chairs argued that any changes to KPERS could have far-reaching effects and as many people as possible should weigh in on the issue.
KPERS, which has about 270,000 members, provides pensions for teachers and government workers. And while current benefits are safe, the system faces a shortfall of nearly $8 billion between revenues and promised benefits.
Groups that support shrinking government and oppose taxes want the state to establish a 401(k)-type plan. Groups that represent employees want the state to face its obligations and fund the system at an appropriate level. Gov. Sam Brownback has said he wants the state to move toward a 401(k)-style plan for new employees.
The LCC, composed of legislative leaders from both parties, approved the outside-the-capital meetings, and the approximately $2,000 to $2,500 that each of the meetings will cost.
“I think it’s very important that KPERS beneficiaries and retirees have an opportunity to have some say-so at these hearings,” said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka.
The 13-member study commission is charged with giving the Legislature its recommendations by Jan. 6.