State retirees should not be forced to choose between food and medicine

Dear Editor,

One of the focus areas for the Kansas National Education Association-Retired (KNEA-R) is financial stability in retirement. Over 90,000 Kansans, including public-school staff, firefighters, law enforcement officers, judges, state employees, and city and county employees, receive KPERS benefits. In 2015, Kansas retirees received a total of $1,376,872,982 from KPERS.

Osage County retirees receive and spend $12,412,768. We pay our car and property tax, we buy food and other goods which bring in sales tax, we pay income tax on our investments, and we pay for our medical care and prescriptions. We contribute to the economy of Kansas.

For 26 years the Kansas Legislature granted periodic cost of living adjustments for KPERS recipients. However, in the past 19 years, not one such adjustment has been made. During that same period of time, the cost of living (as measured by the Consumer Price Index, CPI) has risen 45 percent. Someone who retired in 1993 at a salary of $1,120 per month would need a CPI adjusted benefit of $1,757 today just to break even.

The 2017 legislators must to fix our revenue and budget problems. They need to pay their “employer” share of KPERS, as current employees are mandated to do. They need to stop “borrowing by not making employer payments”. They also must give hardship benefit adjustments to the eldest of our retirees, whose buying power has so greatly diminished over the years. No retiree should have to choose between food or medicine.

Sincerely,
Chris Huntsman, KNEA-R President
Topeka, Kan.


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