Part of the legislative battle every year it seems in Topeka is how much money will be put into the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. President of the Kansas Policy Institute, Dave Trabert reminds us that this wasn’t always a problem.
“That’s a conscious choice by legislators for more than 20 years,” said Trabert. “Going back to the early 1990s, there was a time when the pension system was fully funded. That’s when legislators decided, in a very bipartisan effort, to increase pension benefits by 25 percent and at the same time, consciously choose not to put enough money into the plan to pay for it.”
That policy choice and the spending increases that came with it is a big reason why the state doesn’t have money for a rainy day, according to Trabert.
“We routinely have less money in the bank at the end of the year than we’re required to by state law,” said Trabert. “The law says Kansas is supposed to have a small ending balance of about 7.5% of that year’s expenditures. It works out to about $600 million. Most years, legislators go in and change the law to say, well, except for this year. They skirt the law so they can continue to spend more.”
It’s also important to consider how city councils and county commissions choose to spend their dollars when thinking about the economic health of the state.
“There are far-reaching implications of the spending choices made at the local and state level,” said Trabert. “It comes down to, even part of the reason some people have a hard time finding a job is because the tax levels can become a barrier to companies either moving here or staying here or expanding.”
Primaries for municipal elections, where they are necessary, will take place in August.