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Letters to the Editor

Vital benefit

December 12, 2011

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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.

Comments

deathpenaltyliberal 2 years, 4 months ago

"jhawkinsf (anonymous) rambles… The problem I have is that over the years,... Once hired, never fired. SINCE WHEN? STATE EMPLOYEES ARE TERMINATED ALL THE TIME. Then add to that the fact that with private sector cutbacks, public sector employees are not paid that much less, if at all... I GUESS PAY AND BENEFIT CUTS ARE MEANINGLESS IN YOUR WORLD. Yesterday ran a thread about a retirement in California, where the benefits of public service employees" CALIFORNIA..., BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.

Nice straw man attack on the people, like cops and firefighters, who hold our society together. Maybe if you spent less time focusing on your feelings and opinions, and got some facts about the actual pay, and benefits, and retention policies of various state agencies, you could have made a meaningful post. Instead, it's just whine.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 4 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?

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 4 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.

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mloburgio 2 years, 4 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.

'Insult'

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KU_cynic 2 years, 4 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.

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its_just_math 2 years, 4 months ago

401k's are only reliable if we have decent leaders running the nation and letting capitalism work. Right now, we absolutely do not have that. Right now, lotsa folks are puckered up tighter than a snare drum watching, waiting and wondering what'll happen to what they thought was a comfortable retirement.

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thirdplanet 2 years, 4 months ago

401K's are the choice of a new generation.

Pensions and defined benefits plans like KPERS are relics of the past.

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araceliroe 2 years, 4 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.

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