Statement on the Governor’s line-item veto of additional KPERS contributions

May 21, 2019 by

Kansas NEA remains committed to the long term viability and security of the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System. No retiree benefits or future payments will be impacted by Governor Kelly’s recent action to line-item veto an additional payment to KPERS this year.

We have opposed all legislative actions that delayed payments, reduced employer contributions and contributed to the unfunded actuarial liability. These actions have been irresponsible and demonstrate a lack of respect for public employees, including the thousands of teachers who serve our students every day.

We also recognize that Governor Laura Kelly, during her time in the Kansas Senate did not support legislation that harmed KPERS or delayed or reduced the employer payments made by the state.

We were pleased when the legislature passed and the Governor signed into law a $115 million payment to KPERS during this legislative session. We also appreciate that the legislature saw fit to make a promised $51 million payment – a payment which would not have been necessary had the legislature honored their obligations in the first place. Passage of the $115 million increase in KPERS contributions fulfills a promise made when earlier payments were withheld.

Legislators who- in the past- supported the failed Brownback tax experiment are responsible for the actions taken since 2012. These actions have harmed KPERS and now require the state to make up for funding withheld to pay for the devastation caused by irresponsible tax policy. We wonder, where was the concern for KPERS when these conservative leaders created and supported the agenda of Sam Brownback that drove Kansas to the verge of bankruptcy?

Legislators who refused to expand KanCare as too costly and resisted school funding increases also worked diligently to bust the budget through tax cuts for multinational corporations and then, expanded KPERS payments. Such actions were intended to score political points and craft campaign postcards. These legislators – who voted to withhold KPERS payments in the past – now want to paint themselves as the saviors of the system and attack the Governor.

In 2017, the legislature reversed much of the failed Brownback tax experiment to put the state back on the path to prosperity. While much progress has been made, the state is still not in a position to consider new expenditures which do not address the core obligations of the state – public education, public safety, infrastructure, and the needs of the working poor and foster children.

Governor Kelly’s veto of the additional $51 million for KPERS is in line with her commitment to recovery and budget stability. The best long-term solution for both KPERS and the state is to ensure stability in the budget. Without such long-term stability, Kansas cannot manage a quality foster care system, provide safe working conditions in our corrections system, maintain good roads and highways, or control the spiraling costs of higher education.

Still, our long-standing and unwavering commitment to retirement security for current and future retirees makes us wish that such an action was unnecessary. We call upon the legislature to renew its commitment to the people of Kansas and resist the effort to compromise the state’s ability to pay for the core services upon which all Kansans depend.

That is why we applaud Governor Kelly’s veto of two bills cutting taxes for the wealthiest individuals and multinational corporations. We understand the rationale for the veto of this additional KPERS contribution, but we would remind all that an investment in retirement security is an investment in our economy. Unlike multinational corporations that continually threaten to leave our state, public employees, secure in their retirement years, will stay in Kansas and spend their retirement benefits within the Kansas economy.

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