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Kansas House Looks Ready to Reject Governor's Pension Plan

The KPERS headquarters in Topeka. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

It looks likely that Kansas lawmakers will reject Governor Laura Kelly’s plan to take longer to pay off the state’s pension debt.

A committee in the Kansas House advanced the bill to the full chamber Monday, but not because they like the idea. Multiple lawmakers criticized the plan, which would extend the deadline to pay off a $9 billion deficit in the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.

Republican Representative Tom Cox said rejecting the bill will allow lawmakers and the governor to work on new budget plans.

Approving the reamortized payoff schedule would set what Cox called a dangerous precedent.

“Every time we needed money, I think the Legislature would look to go to that and say ‘well, let’s just delay and reamortize our KPERS payments to cover the budget,’” Cox said.

Cox said refinancing the pension debt might make sense in the future, but not now.

There wasn’t unanimous support for advancing the bill. Democratic Rep. Stan Frownfelter said there’s no reason for further debate if they don’t want to pursue the idea.

“I don’t think we need to take it to the body unless we’re trying to make a political announcement,” Frownfelter said.

Kelly has said the state’s pension payments will balloon in the coming years and extending the payoff will make the debt more manageable.

Adding 10 years to eliminate the $9 billion deficit would mean more than $4 billion in additional costs, but would also give the state more budget flexibility because of smaller annual payments.

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