The following remarks are from Governor Laura Kelly at the bill signing ceremony for Senate Bill 9:

Good morning. Thank you for joining us today for my first bill signing as governor, Senate Bill 9 – legislation that fixes past mistakes by repaying part of our debt to our state retirement system.

I’m delighted to be joined by friends and former colleagues, Senator Carolyn McGinn and Senator Tom Hawk, our Republican and Democratic leaders from the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

We invited House Appropriations Chairman Troy Waymaster and ranking member Rep. Kathy Wolf Moore, who we know worked hard on this legislation. They were unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict.

I want to thank all four of these legislators for their leadership on this bill and for their work on the challenging process of shepherding a state budget through the Kansas Legislature.

I’d also like to welcome some very special people – retired state employees and KPERS beneficiaries.

Kansas is what it is in large part thanks to our public employees. Working as firefighters, teachers, engineers and so much more – our state retirees made their own special contribution to Kansas throughout the course of their professional lives.

In exchange for their dedicated service, the state committed to provide a stable retirement system. The retirees upheld their end of the deal, but the state did not. KPERS payments have been delayed, layered, or eliminated 15 times in the last 9 years.

Senate Bill 9 is an effort to right that wrong. It will pay $115 million for a previously skipped payment with interest.

While Senate Bill 9 was not my proposal, I very much support it. It is a step in the right direction. And I am encouraged that lawmakers are now committed to improving the long-term stability and sustainability of our KPERS pension system.

But this is just the first step in what will be a long road to recovery.

And as we look down that road – we see KPERS payments balloon. They will nearly double in the next 10 years – climbing to almost $1 billion per year. That is not sustainable. And we will have to find a solution together.

As a budget wonk, I’m thrilled that my first bill to sign as governor pays down debt. But we have much more to do to fix the damage of the last several years.

Republicans and Democrats must work together. We must put politics aside and make wise choices about how we can protect retirees and their benefits – while also putting our pension system on a sustainable path.

Thank you for being here. I’m pleased to sign Senate Bill 9.