Recently Kansas University professor Art Hall, along with a co-author, published a study explaining the funding crisis in KPERS, the Kansas Public Employee Retirement system. In summary, the report states: “The key finding of the study is that the KPERS system will not be in actuarial balance over the thirty year amortization period set in GASB standards. This means that KPERS will continue to accumulate unfunded liabilities for the foreseeable future. It is highly likely that KPERS will continue to impose a heavy tax burden on future generations.”
This finding has raised quite a protest from those who expect to receive a benefit from KPERS in retirement. It may be the school districts and teachers that are protesting the loudest. What’s really strange is that they’re protesting what appear to be facts based on solid research.
An example of the blowback to this report is when Harold Schlechtweg, business representative of Service Employees International Union Local (SEIU) 513 in Wichita, addressed the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district regarding the KPERS report. He advocated for raising taxes earlier this year in front of the Wichita City Council so that employees he represents wouldn’t lose their jobs to less expensive outsourcing.
To the school board, he said that when “people make a political intervention — and that’s exactly what that report was — I think that some requirement should be placed on them that they consider the impact of that.”
This is a puzzling statement. Is Schlechtweg asking for some sort of censorship or approval to be obtained before think tanks or advocacy groups publish their articles? I don’t think he would consent to this requirement being placed on himself, as many of his arguments wouldn’t pass any sort of sanity test.
For example, in a Wichita Eagle op-ed earlier this year, Schlechtweg said that if wages and benefits paid to Wichita parks workers were cut, the community would suffer. Let’s remind him who pays the wages and benefits he tried to protect: the taxpayers of the city of Wichita. The interests of the workers he represents are in direct opposition to that of the Wichita taxpayer.
Schlechtweg (and others) object to use of the word bankrupt, but if that accurately describes the financial condition of KPERS, why should we gloss over it?
He also mentioned the large losses in 401k plans. That’s not true for everyone. If a person’s funds were invested in, say, money market funds, there would have been no losses.
Employing the tactics often used by the left when faced with issues not favorable to their cause, Schlechtweg attacks personalities. He slams the authors of the study as “not friends of public education,” naming Americans for Prosperity, the tea party groups, and the Kochs specifically.
He praised the Kansas National Education Association or KNEA, the teachers union), for their work in providing information on this issue. Mr. Schlechtweg, if you’re going to discount the arguments of certain advocacy groups, can we agree that the teachers union is one of the most single-sided, uncompromising, and untruthful advocacy groups?
And while bashing the political motives of others, doesn’t Schlechtweg realize that the KNEA is all about politics, if about anything at all?
The fix for KPERS, he said, is to fund it. A problem, of course, is that taxes will likely have to be raised, and people don’t like to pay taxes. But to advocates like Schlechtweg and the SEIU, that’s not a problem. The taxpayer, it seems, is both their source of funds and focus of their scorn.