Archive for Friday, February 10, 2012

Employee groups oppose proposed KPERS changes

The Kansas Statehouse

The Kansas Statehouse

February 10, 2012


TOPEKA — Representatives of numerous government employee groups on Thursday urged legislators to reject a move to replace the current public pension system with a 401(k)-type plan.

“Quite simply, the best of the best state workers will seek employment elsewhere if both salaries and benefits are sub-par,” Gary Adkins, executive director of the State Employees Association of Kansas, told the Senate KPERS Committee.

Adkins was joined by representatives of the Kansas Coalition of Public Retirees, Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, Kansas Sheriffs Association, Kansas Peace Officers Association and the Fraternal Order of Police.

Law officials said proposed pension changes could increase the normal retirement age, which would jeopardize the public.

“We don’t believe the public wants the safety or the safety of their family dependent on an aging officer who stays in the profession simply because the retirement system will penalize them if they retire,” said Ed Klump, a former Topeka police chief and now lobbyist for several of the law enforcement groups.

The Kansas Legislature is considering a proposal to start a 401(k)-style plan for new teachers and government workers under the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, which faces long-term funding problems. Gov. Sam Brownback supports the switch.

But employee groups say changing the system will end up costing the state more in the long run, fails to address the unfunded liability within KPERS and will leave retirees with inadequate benefits.

In addition, the League of Kansas Municipalities told the Senate committee that its segment of the KPERS system was in relatively good financial shape. “There is no urgency to make any changes to the local government KPERS group,” Sandy Jacquot, general counsel for LKM said.

State Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, who produced a KPERS study commission report that calls for the 401(k)-style plan, said revamping the system was necessary to respond to the “changing demographics of the Kansas workforce.” He added, “People change jobs frequently. We have a retirement system now that is sufficiently inflexible.”

But Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said the proposed change will have negative results. “We will have a bunch of poor, old Kansans,” Kelly said.

The committee made a procedural move that will bring up a new bill and continue the debate. “The process is quite a ways from getting there,” said Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton.

Earlier in the day, petitions signed by more than 6,400 school employees in Johnson County protesting the proposed KPERS change were delivered to Brownback’s office.


werekoala 2 years, 2 months ago

I love how the rabid right wingers above are willing to toss aside "fiscal conservatism" the second it gets in the way of their tantrum. Everyone who is paying any attention knows exactly what's going on here.

The Legislature was freaking out back in the early 90s, state workers were leaving in droves and they were having trouble finding qualified applicants. So they sweetened the deal, increased benefits that they offered.

Over the past 20 years, KPERS has been pretty solid, but every time they needed more money for some pet project, the easiest move, politically, was to short how much they put in to KPERS . "We'll pay it back next year" they said. And a couple of decades of "next year"s came and went.

Meanwhile, the employees didn't have the option of saying, hey, I just had a kid, or bought a house, or got cancer this year. No matter what, the employees had to kick in each year. And so they muddled through like everyone else, and kept treating our water, picking up our trash, patrolling our streets, etc. You know, doing the job they were hired to do, keeping up their end of the bargain...

And now folks like you want to say, hey, thanks for the hard work, but we're changing the deal. Ha ha, shame on you for believing in us! If you really thought public workers were so terrible, lazy, and unnecessary, there are plenty of ways you could work to get rid of them, eliminate, consolidate, privatize their positions.

But the truth is, you're more than happy to benefit from their work. You're just too cheap to want to pay for it. Typical...


verity 2 years, 2 months ago

Thank you, lawslady, for a coherent explanation of what's going on.

I will add that, in my experience, a good number of people put up with some fairly hostile work environments in order to have a certain security---or because other jobs are not available. These are often the best workers. Despite what some people like to think, working for the state doesn't guarantee a cake walk. If the benefits go south and other employment becomes more available, they will be leaving.


lawslady 2 years, 2 months ago

I personally would love to see a bunch of really smart and completely honest CPA's - who are without any political leanings either way - go through the state budget and costs. I bet they could find things like the Legislator's sweet heart deal all over the place. For example, the millions spent (and still being spent) to "improve" (not just update/maintain) the state capital where these queens and kings work for a few months out of every year. Did they really need hand-blown cyrstal lamps on all the lights?


lawslady 2 years, 2 months ago

Nothing too complicated here folks. Just a lot of past mismagement (under funding KPERS investments for YEARS - robbing Peter to pay Paul) + population aging and not replacing itself = not enough money to keep funding public anything at the same rate as in the past. Something has got to give somewhere. We either need to cut spending somewhere, or get used to giving up something somewhere.

But cutting the benefits of public employees may be rather short sighted. Unless of course what you are really trying to do is cut way back on what the government does for the public or eliminate government services entirely.

Could we cut somewhere else and continue to fund KPERS at the same rate (and maybe, just maybe make up what was lost during all those years it was underfunded) - of course. But that would require either more income (taxes) or cutting out something else that has been funding in the past (pure math again). What would have to be cut might not only include the sweet deal the lawmakers have been giving to themselves (and funding). It might include other governmental services many have come to expect and think of as their "right." And I'm not talking just about social services (welfare) etc. If we don't pay enough taxes to pay the bills, we are going to have to give up things like roads without giant pot holes all the time, emergency medical services, police and fire protection, regulation of certain professionals (Dr.'s and nurses for example), etc.

Those public employees who already have a vested right in a certain amount aren't going to be impacted (unless the law makers want to cause the state to spend millions defending law suits that are certain to result in an order that past promises be kept). The people impacted will be those who are new hires or who haven't got much in the way of vested retirement funds. Which means they'll "get" to be treated just like their counterparts in the private sector. Which will then beg the question - why would anyone in their right mind do the same work for less pay and less benefits? Answer? They won't.

Right now, those who work for the government are not typically lazy or stupid. They just aren't as ambitious or willing to take as many risks as some other people. They have traded making a lot of money for security. Take that away from them and the qualify of public employee will diminish. You think public servants (slaves) don't have good work ethics now? Wait and see what qualify of employee you get when all you can offer is a job - with less pay and benefits equal to those found in the private sector.


verity 2 years, 2 months ago

Divide and conquer indeed.

Make government not work and then complain that is doesn't work. Use that as an excuse to get rid of it.

Set private sector employees against public sector employees.

Make it a race for the bottom for everybody.

Who wins this game? Certainly ain't you and me.

And, Joe Hyde, you are exactly right. Those who are complaining the loudest will not doubt also be complaining the loudest when the police and firefighters aren't there to protect them or when they have to wait in line and miss work because a state office isn't staffed.


Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 months ago

Wall Street cannot be trusted to keep 401k's safe from reckless republicans as Reagan/Bush and Bush Cheney have documented. If my memory serves me well they are representing republicans....


Joe Hyde 2 years, 2 months ago

City governments, county governments and the state government, the state public school system -- everywhere you look these governmental agencies have always screened job applicants to select the best people they could get for doing the important public work that everyone knows needs to be done.

Then here comes the Tea Partiers and St. Sam the Pious, and now the safety nets, the pay, the job security, the financial security of public retirement systems they've been paying into for decades...all of this comes under a relentless and merciless attack intended to weaken benefits earned. Weaken worker rights fought for, earned, deserved.

We're in this governor's first year in office. Only his first. You expect any governor to test the waters on various ideological themes he or she believes in. But I have to say, if these right wing extremists keep on they might very well provoke a unilateral and simultaneous defensive response by public employees statewide.

We wake up some morning and the police department phone line doesn't get answered. There's no toll booth attendants on the Turnpike. No Troopers on the highways. City Hall is vacant; so is your county courthouse. All the state offices in Topeka are vacant. Trash cans sit un-emptied at your curb.

These right wing Republicans want a war against public workers, well, keep on; they just might get one. It'll be one they lose.


Jane 2 years, 2 months ago

gregsharp, you are aware that the state employees also pay taxes, are you not?

Once again, conquer & divide wins the day.


bobberboy 2 years, 2 months ago

should'nt have pi$$ed away so much money on the Capitol Building Upgrade - shoulda put some of that into the KPERS fund like they were supposed to !! For about 10 years the State Legs failed to keep their part of the bargain to put in their matching share of funds and now the chickens are comin' home !! And they had damn well look out for the foxes !!!!!!!!


streetman 2 years, 2 months ago

No amount of rationalization, silly arguments, or whining will change the fact that KPERS is, and always has been, simply too generous -- like most government spending over the decades. We have no choice but to change KPERS (and most other government spending) which means that it will be brought in line with the private sector of society.


deec 2 years, 2 months ago

I would hope public employees will be allowed to opt out when it is converted, as private sector employees are allowed to do. There is no question the conversion will happen, since the 1% has already sucked private pensions dry, and is drooling to get their hands on public sector pensions, It is an even better scam, actually, since public sector employees will likely be unable to opt out of paying into the state pension system,


Lynn731 2 years, 2 months ago

Right on DEEC. It would work as designed if the legislature had not apparently stolen money from it. That plus changes in the stock market, leave us with the mess we are in.


Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 2 months ago

You can only squeeze so much out of the non public sector employees to support the public sector employees. At the current rate there will be nothing for any of them. Seems the smart thing to do is cut your losses now as it would be cheaper than to do it in the future. Move to the 401K style pension format, suck it up, and continue to march.


LJ Whirled 2 years, 2 months ago

I've never understood State representatives and senators receiving a pension benefit. The ideal, as I see it, is the citizen-legislator, who leaves her regular work for a few months a year to serve the people of her district. Instead, we have professional politicians, who not only line up at the trough but order us to keep filling it with more and more slop.

The pay of legislators is perhaps a small piece of the puzzle, but the tone set on that issue will filter through the entire process.


rockchalk1977 2 years, 2 months ago

Another liberal hit piece by Scott Rothschild happily throwing more red meat to the looney left. That makes two above the fold today. Unfair and unbalanced. There are two sides to every story right? Maybe you should look to Fox News for some guidance and unbiased journalism.

  • reject a move to replace the current public pension system
  • jeopardize the public.
  • Brownback supports the switch.
  • leave retirees with inadequate benefits
  • change will have negative results

All we hear is whining government union employees.


progressive_thinker 2 years, 2 months ago

The problem with the proposed change is that between now and 2035, the proposed change would cost 1.3 billion more than what is currently in place. If you carry that out to 2060, the cost to the taxpayers is increased by over 13 billion over what is currently in place.

Source: KANSAS PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM (KPERS) STUDY COMMISSION, Legislative Research Department, Final Report, December 2011

What the proposal does is raise the cost to the taxpayer, and at the same time, reducing benefits to employees.

The proposed change is at best a "lose lose" proposition, and at worst is a mean spirited and high priced assault on public employee benefits.


Michael LoBurgio 2 years, 2 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.


Kathy Mendenhall, a public speaking instructor at Hutchinson Community College and past president of the Hutchinson National Faculty Association, had not been aware of the annualized pay formula for legislators.

"Oh, wow," she said.


Phoenixman 2 years, 2 months ago

KPERS is a bleeding pig. Time to stop the squealing and either shoot it or treat it. I say shoot it and eat it. If you don't like the pay and benefits then don't work for the state.


question4u 2 years, 2 months ago

"Gov. Sam Brownback supports the switch."

These have become sufficient words to cast doubt on the feasibility, intelligence, and fairness of just about anything.


skinny 2 years, 2 months ago

gregsharp, you don't know how to spell either!!


Alceste 2 years, 2 months ago

No wonder you've no pension: Per your own words, "I am done.". What do you expect?


Floyd Craig 2 years, 2 months ago

in all the state workers gets the shaft loike always when I started for the state back in 1972 and then they started taking money for kepers they said the sate matchd dollar for dollar well that went in the toilet when I did leave the system they did not match the money I had in kepers face it the workers always gets the shaft no rasies and less money they put in plus if u get to the retirement age but still can work else where they want you to leave your money in there so they can make the intrest off the money uy have in there go figure


gregsharp 2 years, 2 months ago

Let the best of the best go work somewhere else. You can't have a pension. U work for the state. I donrt have a pension 40 days of vacation and sick leave a year and medical. Why shjould yuou and I have to pay for it. NO I am done.


Alceste 2 years, 2 months ago

From above:

"State Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, who produced a KPERS study commission report that calls for the 401(k)-style plan, said revamping the system was necessary to respond to the “changing demographics of the Kansas workforce.” He added, “People change jobs frequently. We have a retirement system now that is sufficiently inflexible.”

I wonder if good ole State Sen. Jeff King is going to be so kind as to reduce his own obscene back door payoff from KPERS????:

Did everyone know that our ever so dedicated Legislators in Topeka participate in KPERS, too? After all, they're state workers also. But, guess what? These legislators set up a very special system for how they get their KPERS benefits. Here it is in a nutshell:

Legislators have given themselves one heck of a sweetheart deal in how their own KPERS benefits are calculated. 372 days in a year! Leave it to a political hack to figure that one out!

Legislators are given a choice as to whether or not they participate in KPERS. State workers are not given that choice. Because the payoff is so sweet, few legislators do NOT sign up....really the only one's who do not are those that are in an even sweeter payoff deal through the Regents because they come from our hallowed halls of academia.

Well, after the legislator signs up for KPERS, that hack is given yet another choice: How to calculate the benefit. They can choose to have it calculated based on what they actually get and the number of days they actually are in session or:

For the legislator listing all income - the daily rate, subsistence and allowance - this is how annualization is calculated:

•$88.66 (daily rate) x 31 (days) x 12 (months) = $32,981.52

•$123 (subsistence) x 31 (days) x 12 (months) = $45,756

•$7,083 non-session allowance.

Altogether, that equals $85,820.52, and that's the pay figure that would be used for that legislator retiring now.

The Senate president and House speaker are at the top of the pay scale, and annualized pay for those posts could be as high as $99,859.74, depending on their enrollment choices.

This guy Morris who is the President of the Kansas Senate has even been quoted as saying he deserves that kind of KPERS benefit because he is so underpaid!!! Man, this is some amusing stuff!!! Aren't legislators supposed to be servants of the people? Isn't the common thinking that people run for office, not to get rich, but to serve? We sure do think stupid real good like in this state: The people who do the day to day work which make Kansas run have their KPERS figured one way.....and the galoots who pose for 3 months a year as "legislators" get to figure their KPERS benefit in a totally different the point where they've invented a new calendar: 372 days in a year and they work each and every one of them!! Woo Hoo!!!


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