KPERS mistake

Our communities have always depended on public employees dedicated to providing high quality services to all Kansans. The individuals who dedicate their lives to the service of the public don't do so lightly. They know full well that their salaries are far behind their counterparts in other states and those in the private sector.

In order to maintain the quality of services and to recruit and retain public employees, the state has promised, but not always adequately funded, a defined benefit retirement system.

A proposal currently in both houses of the Legislature would maintain this system for employees who are vested, but would make a defined contribution plan for those with fewer than 5 years experience by January 2014. This proposal does nothing to address the main problem with KPERS, an $8.3 billion unfunded liability to participants through 2033.

A bill passed last year, HB 2194, actually deals with this unfunded liability, but it will not go into effect without further action from the Legislature. According to the state's actuary, the bills currently being considered would cost taxpayers $10.9 billion more than HB 2194.

These bills are contrary to the assertion that Gov. Sam Brownback made during his State of the State address to "stop digging." In fact, they make the hole bigger.

To ask all taxpayers to fund any plan that costs more than legislation already signed into law is irresponsible. To ask public employees to spend more of their already lagging salaries for a less certain benefit is not the retirement system our public employees deserve. Please tell your legislators to stop the digging, treat our public employees fairly, and take action to implement HB2194.

Brett Randolph, president, Andover Education Association