Keeping the Kansas Promise (KKP) worked hard in 2022 to educate members, the general public, and lawmakers about the importance of the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS) and secure retirement for all of the state’s public employees.
As the 2022 Legislative Session commenced, things seemed uncertain given that the COVID Omicron variant was still raging. However, as January ended and February began, the Legislature returned to operating at a normal/pre-pandemic level. Lawmakers were also greeted in January with a budget surplus of $3 billion. While that was good news overall, it is often the case that when there is too much money, the battles over what to do with those excess dollars can be significant. The 2022 Session was no exception as the challenge of reconciling competing priorities including tax cuts, spending increases, and paying off debts all came to the forefront.
While it was disappointing that lawmakers decided not to use a piece of the record budget surplus to provide a Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) for KPERS retirees, they did decide to use a sizable portion of the surplus to shore up the public employee’s retirement system. Legislators voted to appropriate $1.125 billion of the budget surplus to the KPERS trust fund in late April. In doing so, policymakers intend to improve the overall funding position of KPERS, and to help further reduce the system’s unfunded actuarial liability (UAL).
Unfortunately, not all the news to report from Topeka this year about KPERS was good. Towards the end of the regular legislative session, Senate Republicans introduced SB 553. SB 553 would take away pensions from all future public employees starting July 1, 2024, and move them to a thrift-savings plan. This bill would include all public employees participating in the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS), including correctional officers, teachers, state employees, and some police officers and firefighters. KPERS actuaries and State Budget Officials projected the long-term cost of this proposal to be a whopping $6.7 billion. Thankfully, this bill did not advance far this session. However, the Keeping the Kansas Promise Coalition will remain vigilant and undertake preparations to defend KPERS and public employees against such a dangerous proposal in the future.
Now that the 2022 Legislative Session has ended, Kansans, and the KKP Coalition, will turn attention to the upcoming elections. On the ballot this year will be all Statewide elected officials, including the Governor, and all 125 seats in the Kansas House of Representatives. Additionally, another important office up for election in 2022 is State Treasurer. The State Treasurer is an automatic, statutory member of the KPERS Board of Trustees. We encourage registered voters to educate themselves about all the candidates and their positions on issues relating to KPERS, public employees and pensions.
To learn more about any legislative measures considered during the 2021-2022 Legislative Biennium, please visit the Kansas Legislature’s website at www.kslegislature.org.