Hensley: Kansas must stop using KPERS as credit

Public employees dedicate their careers to serving the people of Kansas. These men and women all across Kansas teach in our schools, protect us from danger, respond to emergencies, and keep our roads and bridges safe. All of them commit their lives to serving Kansas.

Unfortunately, Governor Brownback has jeopardized our state’s commitment to them. He has continuously opted to raid public employee pension funds (KPERS) to help fill the massive budget hole caused by his failed economic experiment. Last year he delayed a $97 million payment to KPERS, but promised it would be paid back.

For every day this delayed payment is not paid back, the state pays $20,000 a day in interest alone.

Now the governor proposes keeping employer contributions at the 2016 levels. In other words, he won’t be paying back the delayed 2016 payment and he has no plans to make that payment, again, this year.

This amounts to a combined loss of $596 million, over three years. Or, it is equivalent to skipping a full year’s worth of payments.

Brownback also proposes extending the amortization period by another 10 years, making it so KPERS wouldn’t be fully funded until 2043. This makes it more expensive to make the system solvent.

How much more expensive? Nearly $6.5 billion.

It will cost the state billions of dollars in the long term in order to save millions in the short term, all for the sake of failed and inherently unfair economic policies.

The only way to ensure security for public employee retirees is to reverse the Brownback income tax cuts, stop using KPERS as a credit card, and fund it at the levels it requires.

Public employees are hardworking Kansans trying to provide for their families - just like any other Kansan who values a hard day’s work. They deserve a retirement that allows them to live modestly, but with security and dignity, well into their golden years. Kansas must renew its commitment to public employees.

Anthony Hensley
Kansas 19th District Senator

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