Kansas’s pension funding gap just grew by $1 billion

Kansas’s public-employee pension fund posted pretty strong growth last year, but the gap between its future liabilities and assets still expanded by an additional billion dollars.

The Topeka-Capital Journal reports that the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System reported a 14.5 percent return on investment, well above the 25-year average of 8 percent. So what gives? How did the pension fund’s gap grow?

Well, KPERS is still being hit by deferred losses from 2008. And Kansas is far from alone. In July, Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research reported that state and local pensions were just 60 percent funded, under official accounting measures about to take effect.

Moody’s, the ratings agency, upgraded state outlooks recently but says it’s still concerned about pensions, GovBeat’s Reid Wilson wrote last week:

Serious concerns remain, especially in states where state-funded pension obligations continue to grow. Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will have to spend large amounts of their new revenues on pension liabilities; New Jersey alone will have to spend about 40 percent of its anticipated $1.6 billion revenue growth on pension contributions in 2014, Moody’s found.

But, as poorly funded as pensions are now, the Boston College report did anticipate a sizable bounce back: “In 2016, assuming a healthy stock market, plans should be slightly more than 80 percent funded,” it found.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.

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