Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kansas Governor dismisses moving state employees to 401(k) plan

Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson signaled Friday that he opposes moving Kansas toward 401(k)-style pension plans for government employees.

Parkinson’s administration is studying ways to deal with long-term funding problems faced by the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. But he dismissed the idea of getting away from guaranteeing benefits based on employees’ salaries and years of service, regardless of KPERS investment earnings.

“I don’t think that’s out there,” Parkinson said. “You talk to most folks who have 401(k) plans right now, and they’re sitting at about half of what they were last year.”

State officials say pension plans generally are treated legally as contracts between employees and employers, limiting the options for closing the long-term KPERS funding gap. Parkinson said the state won’t — and can’t — cut the benefits of current retirees.

Parkinson said he sees nothing wrong with the basic design of KPERS plans if they’re adequately funded. “The problem is that we just haven’t adequately funded this over the years,” he said.

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