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Headlines for Saturday, December 21, 2014

Pension Move Described as One-Time Budget Fix

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's budget director says Brownback doesn't plan to divert funds from the state's public pension system again to help close budget shortfalls. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan told a legislative committee yesterday (FRI) that the diversion of nearly $41 million from the pension system for teachers and government workers to general government programs is a one-time event.  The Republican governor diverted the money to help close a projected $279 million shortfall in the current budget. The state also faces a $436 million gap in its budget for the fiscal year beginning in July.  The diversion sparked bipartisan criticism because the pension system's benefits are only 60 percent funded through 2033. A 2012 law boosted contributions by both the state and workers to ensure that the system becomes fully funded.


Governor Seeks Study of Pension Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top aides to Republican Governor Sam Brownback are urging legislators to study major changes in the pension system for teachers and government workers that include privatizing it.  Budget Director Shawn Sullivan and Secretary of Administration Jim Clark on Friday outlined potential ideas for a study during a meeting a joint study committee on pensions.  Brownback said last week that he is working on proposals to improve the long-term financial health of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. His comments followed bipartisan criticism of his decision to divert nearly $41 million from KPERS to general government programs to help close a projected shortfall in the current budget.  Sullivan and Clark urged legislators to launch a study of converting the state's long-term pension obligations into annuities managed by private companies.


Regents: Delay Funding Model Talks

(Information in the following story is from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World,

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents says it won't recommend a proposed funding mechanism that would tie college budgets to specific performance-based benchmarks.  Instead, the board said it would recommend the Legislature delay considering any kind of performance-based budgeting model until the state's financial condition turns around. It wants the model to be used as an incentive to qualify for additional funding, above what schools receive in their base budgets.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports state lawmakers had urged the board in August to develop a metrics model that could be considered by the Legislature in its next session.  A task force appointed to create a proposal offered its plan to the regents Thursday. It called for setting goals for each university and offering payments based on targets like the number of awarded certificates and degrees.


Kansas Oil Rigs Buck Trend

HOUSTON (AP) — Oilfield services company Baker Hughes Incorporated says the number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. fell by 18 this week to 1,875.  The Houston firm said yesterday (FRI) in its weekly report that 1,536 rigs were exploring for oil and 338 for gas. One was listed as miscellaneous.  Of the major oil- and gas-producing states, Arkansas gained three rigs, Kansas and New Mexico each rose by two and Alaska and Pennsylvania were up one apiece.  North Dakota declined by seven, Oklahoma by six, Texas down four, Louisiana off three, and Ohio and West Virginia each decreased two.  West Texas Intermediate crude futures closed the week at $56.52 a barrel, down fifty percent from the price in June.


Car Crashes into Wichita Home, Injures Two

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A suspected drunken driver plows into the living room of a west Wichita home and seriously injures the 93-year-old resident and a 69-year-old woman visiting her.  The Wichita Eagle reports the crash happened at 9:55 p.m. Thursday. Police Lt. Joe Schroeder says both women suffered multiple injuries and remained at a hospital yesterday (FRI).  Schroeder says a 33-year-old man driving an Acura crashed through the wall as the women were seated in the living room of the home.  The man was booked into jail on suspicion of multiple counts, including driving under the influence and aggravated battery.


Trial Moved for Man Accused of Shooting Family

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The trial for a 39-year-old Wichita man accused of trying to kill his family has been delayed until March at the request of the man's attorney.  The Wichita Eagle reports Pettix McMillan is charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder for the March 24 shootings of his 36-year-old wife and two sons, ages 5 and 13.  Prosecutors say the woman and older boy were shot in the torso in their west Wichita home, while the younger boy was shot in the head. All three survived.  McMillan's trial had been scheduled to begin Monday in Sedgwick County District Court but now is set for March 30th.  McMillan worked for a trucking company and has been found competent to stand trial. He remains in custody on $1 million bond.

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