The ultimate insult to the injury of the Sam Brownback Austerity Regime is that, like most GOP-controlled governments, what sacrifices that are demanded of the little people are never enforced upon those who make the laws. After all, Kansas has got to cut salaries for state employees like teachers, but not so much for lawmakers.
The one-of-a-kind Kansas pension plan lets representatives and senators sign up for full-time pension benefits while working their part-time elected positions.
“Legislators,” notes an employee benefit sheet explaining the pension plan to new lawmakers, “have a special deal here.”
They get a modest salary for the roughly four months they spend each year in Topeka, but their pensions grow as if the state paid them for a year-round gig.
All told, a salary shy of $15,000 makes a lawmaker eligible for a pension that any teacher, road worker, prison employee or Kansas bureaucrat could qualify for only if their actual pay ran north of $90,000.
“It’s not fair or appropriate,” said Rebecca Proctor, the executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, a union representing 8,000 workers.
She was a member of a Kansas Public Employees Retirement System study commission that in 2011 suggested changing the system for legislators. The Legislature never acted on that recommendation.
Instead, she said, lawmakers have attempted to shore up KPERS by increasing contributions required of regular state employees. In addition, some legislators have floated proposals limiting whether those workers could count unused vacation and sick time toward their pension benefits.
“It’s hypocritical,” Proctor said.
To be sure, members of the House and Senate must pay into the kitty, 6 percent of the supposed salary on which their pensions are calculated. But it’s such a good deal that few pass it up.
Taxpayers typically pay about twice an employee’s contribution toward the pension. So the more legislators sign up for, the more the state also must chip in.
And of course this awesome pension deal isn't new, Kansas lawmakers have been enjoying this since 1982 and no other state employee gets that kind of deal. But the state lawmaker pension plan wasn't touched when Gov. Brownback installed his austerity regime, while other state employees received massive pension cuts, especially teachers.
Did you think austerity in Kansas actually counted for the "servants of the people"?