A proposal by Gov. Jeff Colyer aimed at convincing House and Senate budget leaders to use unanticipated tax revenue to make an $82 million payment to the state pension system was considered a surprise announcement for lawmakers to contemplate before they convened for a wrap-up session.

The surprise for many taxpayers, as well as a source of discontent, is why the state continues to fund a pension system. Most Kansans employed by private companies find themselves paying into a 401(k) program, which includes matching funds from their employers capped at a certain percentage of an employee’s pay. …

The Legislature at least needs to initiate a study that clearly details the strains the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System has placed on state budgeting.

In addition, the study can provide comparisons with systems in other states, and the potential value of offering pensions to state workers who are in high-risk occupations, such as correctional officers and highway patrol troopers. Benefits given to teachers, whose salaries have also been affected by Kansas budget cuts, must be another consideration.

It could be that findings suggest KPERS is well worth the investment and that state workers are deserving of a retirement plan that has faded from existence in the private sector. …

Still, research needs to provide clarity on retirement appropriations — particularly after a November report from Alan Conroy, executive director for KPERS, determined $9 billion was owed to the system and lawmakers would have to funnel $600 million into the system to keep that debt from escalating in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Pensions can certainly be considered a great benefit in today’s times. Declines in union membership, along with corporate greed and the propensity for Americans to live longer, were factors contributing to the demise of defined-benefit retirement plans. Now, almost half of working families in America have no retirement savings, according to a survey of consumer finances conduced by the Federal Reserve in 2016.

In some cases, the household shortfalls can be attributed to poor financial planning caused by inability to personally manage savings. Still, it is understandably difficult for many, including those in the private sector living in Kansas, to summon much sympathy for any troubles that arise from funding government pensions.

— GateHouse Kansas