A committee in the Kansas Legislature is considering a bill to overhaul the state’s public employee retirement system. The bill would convert KPERS to a 401(k)-style retirement system in which employees manage their own investments.The change would only affect employees hired after the start of 2016. Representative John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican, says the change would eliminate the state’s responsibility for covering any investment losses if an economic downturn occurs. KPERS is already facing a projected $10 billion shortfall.
Some critics of the bill say that switching to a 401(k)-style plan could mean smaller benefit payments for retiring workers.
A Kansas legislative committee is considering major changes to KPERS, the public employee retirement system, which covers thousands of state workers and public school teachers. As KPR's Stephen Koranda reports, one proposal would switch KPERS to a 401(k)-style plan where employees manage their own retirement benefits.
Currently, KPERS is a pension that pays benefits to a worker based on their salary and years of service. Right now there’s about a $10 billion long-term shortfall. Representative John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican, says switching to a 401(k)-style plan would mean workers would handle the risks, and benefits, from the market. That would take away the risk to the state in future economic downturns.
“This bill is what I believe will be necessary to save KPERS, and make sure it will be able to meet its future obligations,” says Rubin.
The state has already passed some KPERS changes, which are estimated to eliminate the shortfall by 2033. Some critics of Rubin’s plan say it would cost the state more than sticking with the fixes that have already been passed. Rebecca Proctor is with the group Keeping the Kansas Promise.
“We have a fix that was passed in 2012 that is on the eve of taking effect. Now is not the time to change course,” says Proctor.
The changes would affect new public employees hired after the beginning of 2016.