Letters to the Editor

Vital benefit

December 12, 2011


To the editor:

I’m distressed (although not surprised) to learn of Brownback’s gutting of the KPERS system, turning it from a defined-benefits plan into a 401(k) defined contributions plan. One of the issues that seems to have been shoved under the table where no one had to look at it is the problem of state employee salaries. Many state employees take and stay with state jobs (and local teaching jobs) because of the benefits, including KPERS pensions. Salaries are not competitive, at least not with salaries out of state. I fear we will lose good people because this pension  benefit is no longer available. The state can ill afford weakening of its school systems through further loss of good teachers.

I understand that the KPERS system has taken serious hits, thanks to previous administrations’ negligence. However, instituting a 401(k) system will not solve the problem. Actually, it will cost Kansans more in the long run. Current retirees, like me, have been promised a benefit, as have thousands of other retirees and current employees. Those promises must be fulfilled, hopefully without impoverishing the Kansas taxpayers.

Proponents of the 401(k) plan claim that employees who move on to another job  can withdraw their earnings more easily. Just my point: If these are good employees, we don’t want them to move on. We’d like for them to continue to serve the Kansas taxpayers and retire with a guaranteed pension. I think the 401(k) just made it less attractive for good employees to stay with us.


araceliroe 6 years, 6 months ago

To address the concern as to weather or not online students get proper instruction the answer is, YES! I am confident that I will be more than ready to teach once I earn my degree from High Speed Universities.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 6 months ago

Hopefully your "High Speed University" will teach you when to use "whether" and when to use "weather". Then again, that's something I learned in second grade.

jafs 6 years, 6 months ago

401K's are never "reliable" - investing in the stock market is risky.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 6 months ago

Every investment carries a certain level of risk. Markets can go up or down. So can housing markets. Putting money under your mattress runs the risk that inflation will devalue the purchasing power of that money. Every single thing carries some level of risk. If you invested in the stock market in 2007, taking even a conservative approach, then you're probably not doing too well. If however, if you entered the market 35 years ago, using the same strategy, you're probably doing quite well. In the long run, the stock market has been one of the best investment strategies bringing the best returns. I only wish I had followed my own advise 35 years ago.

KU_cynic 6 years, 6 months ago

I think Ms. Baughman is correct in writing that many state employees highly value the benefits package -- including the defined benefit retirement system -- and therefore accept a lower salary than they would otherwise. If Kansas were to switch to a defined contribution program then I predict that either salaries will need to go up or the quality of state employees will decline over time.

That said, the problem with the defined benefit program is that state workers and the politicians have been in an unethical alliance to make promises that taxpayers just can't afford to keep. Because the defined benefits won't be paid out for years and decades, it's just been too easy to avoid tough choices on state spending and employment by kicking the can down the road by underfunding KPERS.

The attractiveness of a D/C plan is that all the compensation costs are faced up front. The transition will not be painless -- and may involve an increase in some state salaries as employees are asked to take on more retirement investment risk -- but it's a transition that we have to make sooner or later, and the longer we wait the greater the costs.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 6 months ago

I'm curious about the definition of "benefit package". Typically, we think of retirement as part of a benefit package. We might also include a defined number of paid sick days and paid holidays. Certainly, health care is included and even that might then be extended to family members. We can discuss all day the specifics of these.
The problem I have is that over the years, it seems that one of the benefits public service employees expect is a job for life. There seems to be a feeling that in bad times, in very bad times, when so many in the private sector are being asked to tighten their belt, receive lower pay, etc., that public service employees should be totally immune to these cutbacks. And beyond tightening their belts, the job should be guaranteed forever. Once hired, never fired. Then add to that the fact that with private sector cutbacks, public sector employees are not paid that much less, if at all. Yesterday ran a thread about a retirement in California, where the benefits of public service employees has become a runaway train. California is fast going broke. California's leaders of years ago promised more than today's economy can deliver. It's coming home to roost. Let's keep that in mind the next time "benefit packages" are discussed.

mloburgio 6 years, 6 months ago

Comparing pensions

A legislator retiring with an annualized pay of $85,820.52, and with 10 years' service, would have an annual KPERS benefit of $15,018.60, for a monthly benefit of $1,251.55, according to KPERS. If the retiring legislator had 20 years' service, the annual benefit would be $30,037.20, and monthly, $2,503.10.

The News asked some KPERS retirees about their pension benefits. Their answers varied widely.

A state employee who was a supervisor for juveniles on probation retired after 34 years with an annual benefit of about $25,000. A municipal wastewater treatment plant superintendent, with 24 years' service, estimated the earned benefit at $2,300 to $2,400 monthly.

A state social services worker in a supervisory role retired in 1995 after 15 years and draws a monthly KPERS benefit of $524. That is equal to the monthly benefit for a county-level commercial appraiser who retired at 65, vested at nine years with KPERS.


tomatogrower 6 years, 6 months ago

And they have a part time job. They shouldn't qualify at all for KPERS.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 6 months ago

These people need to position themselves better if this is the problem. It only becomes theirs when they "Choose" to take these jobs, many of the tenured. If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, then by all means, jump over it. If not, then suck it up and live in a trailer court. It is your choice, not the taxpayers.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 6 months ago

What happens to 401k's or any pension plan when the Bush family takes the economy down and Wall Street with it? This has happened twice in the last 30 years. RINO repubs are nortorious for sinking retirement plans and medical insurance plans. Have voters forgotten so soon?

How did Brownback gut KPERS? Is it legal?

How are the 401k's invested? Does anyone know? Are the investments safe?

jhawkinsf 6 years, 6 months ago

Yes, state employees are fired. But they are quickly replaced. What I meant was that the size of government always grows. It's a rare instance when a public sector employee leaves and is simply not replaced. Government grows, it does not contract. Why not? Benefit packages are none of my business if they are in the private sector. But I know that runaway packages such as those in California ruined that state (public sector employees). I'd rather that not happen here.
But it's not just police and firefighters. It's the department of redundancy department that we've all seen. It's the story in yesterday's paper. If you haven't seen stories like that a hundred times, you're just not paying attention. And I prefer wine to whine. White and dry. Goes great with tofu and sprouts.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 6 months ago

I have no idea who this porch person is. I can assure you that I am me and that I'm not now nor have I ever been anyone else but myself. At least that's what 4 out of the 7 voices in my head said. At least, that's what I think I heard. Are we clear? Crystal!

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