KS House Panel Tables 401(k) Conversion Bill

March 17, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – A Kansas state House committee has turned aside a bill establishing a 401(k)-style plan for new public employees.

An Associated Press news report said the House Pensions and Benefits Committee indefinitely tabled the bill to establish a new plan for public employees on July 1, 2013. Under the proposal, most workers hired on or after that date would be required to join, while others would have the option of giving up traditional plans promising benefits up front, based on salary and years of service, the news report said.

The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System faces a projected $7.7 billion gap between anticipated revenues and benefits promised to teachers, judges, police, firefighters and other government workers over the next several decades, according to the AP.

“It may be a good idea — in fact, I think it is a good idea,” Representative Charles Roth, a Republican, told the news service. “But we need to fix what we’ve got first.”

Jane Carter, executive director for the Kansas Organization of State Employees, called the bill “very anti-worker.” Several hundred members of Carter’s group, teachers’ organizations and other unions converged Wednesday on the Statehouse to lobby legislators, with pensions a key issue.

“We don’t want to gamble our retirement in the stock market,” Carter said. “If you have a pension system, it’s got to be there.”

Committee Chairman Mitch Holmes, a St. John Republican, acknowledged to the Associated Press that he’s disappointed in the committee’s decision to table the bill, but he’s not giving up on debating it this year.