Since Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed a 2012 bill that would implement high income tax cuts, the income tax revenue in his state has fallen by a quarter-billion dollars. Brownback now wants to cover those budget gaps by using pension money from public employees.
According to the International Business Times, Brownback is looking to cut the Kansas’ pension contribution by $40 million. The state, which has “one of the worst-funded pension systems in the nation,” was recently hit with an SEC charge for not disclosing their pension problems to investors.
Brownback defended his proposal to the Wichita Eagle, saying that cutting the pension fund would prevent having to cut public education funding.
“It’s kind of, uh, well where are you going to go for the funds? And I don’t like it, but it’s kind of what’s your other option if you don’t hit K-12 and higher ed with allotments?” Brownback said. “It’s also one of those things where we’ve made a lot of progress on it, but we’re at a point where it’s difficult to sustain right now.”
Brownback is not the only governor to cut pension funds in order to compensate for high income tax cuts. New Jersey governor Chris Christie notably slashed pensions in order to expand tax credits, and the IB Times reported that Illinois “followed a similar path.” All three states have had their credit ratings downgraded recently.
Some state officials, including many who pushed for Brownback’s re-election, have expressed their opposition to the pension cuts.
“While I understand the need to re-balance the budget in light of unexpected shortfalls, the decision to delay state contributions to our underfunded pension system is disappointing,” state Treasurer Ron Estes said.
While some budget cuts require legislative approval, reducing pension funds does not.