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.