Public pensions in Kansas
|Kansas public pensions|
|Number of pension systems||1|
|State pension systems:||Kansas Public Employees Retirement System|
|System type:||Defined Benefit Plan|
|Pension Health (2012)|
|Unfunded liabilities :||$10,252,933,000|
|Percent funded change:||2.8%|
|Percent funded rank:||44|
|Pension Fund Members (2012)|
|Other State Pension Information|
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- 1 Features
- 2 Reforms
- 3 Local public pensions
- 4 Transparency
- 5 Recent news
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
- 8 References
Kansas public pensions are are the state mechanism by which state and many local government employees in Kansas receive retirement benefits. In Kansas, there is one state-run system, administered by the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS). The system administers multiple plans: the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (which includes plans for Kansas state employees, teachers, and local government employees), the Kansas Police and Firemen's Retirement System, as well as the Kansas Retirement System for Judges.
As of the end of 2012, Kansas public pensions had total estimated liabilities of $23.5 billion dollars, but had only 56.4 percent of those liabilities funded, resulting in unfunded liabilities of $10.3 billion.
One of the contributing factors to this large unfunded liability is the state's failure to fully fund the Annual Required Contribution (ARC); since 2005, the state has allocated an average of less than 70 percent of the ARC. Additionally, Kansas assumes an 8 percent rate of return on its investments, which it failed to meet nine times between 2001 and 2012.
Within the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS) pension system there are three overarching plans:
- Kansas Public Employees Retirement System
- Kansas Police and Fireman's Plan
- Judicial Retirement Plan
Then, there are three funds that make up the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System:
- State Employees Retirement Fund
- Teachers Plan Fund
- Local Retirement Plan
The State of Kansas and Kansas school districts are required to participate in KPERS, while political subdivisions such as cities and counties have the option of whether or not to participate in the system.
The data in the table below was retrieved from the 2012 Actuarial Valuation Report, which measured fund status as of December 31, 2012. Valuation reports are annual reports produced by outside consultants, using unaudited data provided by the pension systems themselves, in order to determine what employers in the system should contribute in the coming year to maintain or improve the fiscal health of the pension funds. The Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS) Valuation Reports for 2010, 2011, and 2012 were produced by Cavanaugh MacDonald Consulting, LLC, a Georgia-based firm that exclusively provides financial consulting to public sector pension and health care plans to governments throughout the United States. The columns for "SBS figure" refer to market liability calculations of the fund by the nonprofit organization State Budget Solutions. This analysis used a rate of return of 3.225 percent, based upon the 15-year Treasury bond yield. The organization called this a "risk-free" rate of return, which they state would make it easier for states to hit their pension requirements in the future. Since 2006, all private sector corporate pension plans have incorporated market costs into their funding schemes.
|Basic Pension Plan Information -- Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS)|
|Plans||Current value||Percentage funded||Unfunded liabilities||Membership|
|State figure||SBS figure||State figure||SBS figure|
|Kansas Public Employees Retirement System**||$11,400,000,000||55 percent||$9,400,000,000||148,608 active members|
|Kansas Police and Fireman's Plan||$1,716,000,000||66.5 percent||$866,000,000||7,187 active members|
|Judicial Retirement Plan||$127,000,000||81.4 percent||$29,000,000||261 active members|
|TOTALS||$13,278,490,000||56 percent||29 percent||$10,252,933,000||$32,889,201,000||156,053 active members|
|**There are three sub-plans that comprise the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. For specific details on those plans, see the table below.|
|Kansas Public Employees Retirement System -- Sub-plans|
|Sub-plan**||Current Value||Percentage funded||Unfunded liabilities||Membership|
|State Employees Retirement Fund||$2,724,000,000||67.8 percent||$1,292,000,000||23,826 active members|
|Teachers Plan Fund||$6,220,000,000||49.4 percent||$6,366,000,000||85,428 active members|
|Local Retirement Plan||$2,491,000,000||59.5 percent||$1,699,000,000||39,351 active members|
|TOTALS||$11,400,000,000||55 percent||$9,400,000,000||148,608 active members|
|**These three sub-plans comprise the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.|
The percent funded figure is calculated by comparing the current actuarial value of the fund and the total liabilities. The current actuarial value is generated with the assumed rate of return of 8 percent. While a percent funded ratio of 80 percent is commonly cited by institutions such as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Pew Research Center as the threshold for a "healthy" pension fund, the American Academy of Actuaries recommends that all pension systems "should have a strategy in place to attain or maintain a funded status of 100 percent or greater."
The KPERS System also oversees the State's Deferred Compensation Plan, a voluntary 457(b) savings plan. KPERS was established in 1962 when the Kansas State Legislature passed a set of laws known as the “Retirement Act.” It provides provides three statewide defined-benefit retirement plans for state and local public employees, including all Kansas school districts, state employees, all counties and most municipalities. As of December 2012, KPERS had a total membership of 286,164. The average age of retirement in the system as a whole is 71.
According to U.S. Census data, as of March 2011, Kansas had 54,741 total public employees. In Fiscal Year 2012, the state had a total of 202,022 members in the retirement plan. This included 156,053 active members and 45,969 inactive members. An additional 84,142 were receiving periodic benefit payments. Our membership figures divide plan participants into two broad categories: active and other. Active members are current employees contributing to the pension system. Other members include retirees, beneficiaries and other inactive plan participants (usually terminated employees entitled to benefits but not yet receiving them).
Annual Required Contribution
Annual Required Contributions (ARC) are the contributions actuarially required to attain or maintain a healthy funding level. ARCs are calculated annually and are a sum of two different costs. The first component is the "normal cost," or what the employer owes to the system in order to support the liabilities gained in the previous year of service. The second component is an additional payment in order to make up for previous liabilities that have not yet been paid for. According to the Pew Research Center, between 1999 and 2008, Kansas paid 65.1 percent of its actuarially required contribution each year.
Research conducted by State Budget Solutions showed the extent to which each state has funded or underfunded its Annual Required Contribution. Between 2002 and 2011, the total ARC for Kansas was $4.9 billion; during that time, the state contributed $3.4 billion, a difference of $1.5 billion. According to the 2009 and 2012 Valuation Reports, in the nine years from FY2005 to FY2013, the ARC grew from $381.8 million to $819.3 million, while the state's actual contributions grew from $261.9 million to $614.5 million. Over that period, the state contributed only 69.1 percent of the ARC.
|Schedule of Employer Contributions|
|Fiscal Year||Annual Required Contribution||Actual Contribution||Percent Contributed|
On June 25, 2012, the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) approved a plan to reform the accounting rules for state and local pension funds. These revised standards were set to take effect in fiscal years 2013 and 2014. As a result, ARCs were removed as a reporting requirement. Instead, plan administrators and accountants will use an actuarially determined contribution or a statutory contribution for reporting purposes.
Historical funding levels
According to estimates from the Center for State & Local Government Excellence, in the 11 years between 2001 and 2012, the funding level for all KPERS plans fell from 85.0 percent to 56.7 percent. Between 2007 and 2012, the five plans managed by KPERS gained more than $4.5 billion in liabilities, but lost more than $154 million in value. This poor fund performance and management increased the collected unfunded liability by more than $4.7 billion, reducing the funded ratio of the plans by 14 percentage points.
|Historical Pension Plan Data|
|Year||Value of Assets||Accrued Liability||Unfunded Liability||Funded Ratio|
|Change from 2004-2012||$2,307,063,000||$7,817,331,000||$5,510,268,000||-14%|
Rate of return
As of the 2012 Valuation Report, Kansas presumed an annual average 8 percent rate of return on its pension investments over the long term. The 2012 Annual Report for KPERS disclosed that the system did not meet it's 8 percent goal in the 1-, 5-, or 10-year periods leading up to 2013.
| Percent Funded Status of Pension Plans |
in the 50 States as of November 2013
|Note: The data in this map was compiled from state CAFR reports and Actuarial Valuation documents. Figures reflect a combination of all of the state pension plans.|
According to a 2012 analysis by the Pew Center for the States, most state pension plans assume an 8 percent rate of return on investments. Critics assert that this assumption is unrealistic, citing changing market conditions and significantly lower investment returns across the board over the past several years. When states lower the rate of return in an effort to accurately predict investment earnings, it increases the current plan liabilities, thereby lowering the percent funded ratio and causing the ARC to increase. This is because future plan liabilities are discounted based on the rate of return, so smaller expected investment returns result in larger actuarially accrued liabilities. For example, on September 21, 2012, the Illinois Teachers Retirement System voted to lower its rate of return from 8.5 percent to 8.0 percent. This change increased the state's fiscal year 2014 ARC from $3.07 billion to $3.36 billion. Similarly, when California's CalPERS reduced its projected annual rate of return from 7.75 percent to 7.5 percent in March 2012, it cost the state an additional $303 million for fiscal year 2013.
The 2008 financial crisis had a devastating effect on pension plans nationwide and has resulted in slower economic growth and increased market volatility. In light of this, some market strategists find the 8 percent assumption to be overly ambitious. Stanford University Finance Professor Joshua Rauh stated that using past investment performance in this economic climate was "dangerously optimistic." Advocates for a lower assumed rate of return argue that the standard assumptions could cause pension fund managers to engage in more risky investments and imprudent stewardship of public funds. Further, if pension plans were using more conservative assumptions, such as the 3 or 4 percent assumed rate of return used in the private sector, and the plans grew more quickly than expected, the fund would have a surplus and smaller future ARCs, which would be preferable to using optimistic assumptions and potentially being caught with larger-than-expected deficits.
On the other hand, traditional public pension plan advocates argue that the dip observed in recent years is not sufficient proof of a long-term, downward trend in investment returns. According to Chris Hoene, executive director at the California Budget Project, "The problem with [the market rate] argument is there isn’t significant evidence other than the short term blip during the economic crisis that there’s been that shift. It’s a speculative argument coming out of a very deep recession."
The National Association of State Retirement Administrators compiled data on the median annualized rate of return for public pensions for the 1-, 3-, 5-, 10-, 20-, and 25-year periods ending in 2013. While the median annualized rate of return failed to meet the 8 percent assumption that most public pensions assume over the 5- and 10-year periods, it was just shy (7.9 percent) over the 20-year period, and it exceeded 8 percent for the 1-, 3-, and 25-year periods. It is important to note that the NASRA data is reporting the median returns, indicating that even though median annualized returns exceeded 8 percent in the 25-year period, the investment portfolios for half of the examined public pension funds failed to meet an 8 percent assumed rate of return.
In September 2013, the nonprofit organization State Budget Solutions published an analysis of state pension funding levels. In its calculations, State Budget Solutions used a 3.2 percent rate of return, the 15-year Treasury bond yield as of August 21, 2013, to discount plan liabilities.
The research found that, all states combined, state public employee pension plans have only 39 percent of the assets they need to cover their promised payments—a $4.1 trillion gap. According to the report, Kansas's public pension plans were 29 percent funded, making it the 47th most funded state.
Moody's report on adjusted pension liabilities
On June 27, 2013, Moody's Investor Service released its report on adjusted pension liabilities in the states. The Moody's report ranked states "based on ratios measuring the size of their adjusted net pension liabilities (ANPL) relative to several measures of economic capacity." In its calculations of net pension liabilities, Moody's employed market-determined discount rates (5.54 percent for Kansas) instead of the state reported assumed rates of return (8 percent for Kansas).
The report's authors found that adjusted net pension liabilities varied dramatically from state to state, from 6.8 (Nebraska) percent to 241 (Illinois) percent of governmental revenues in fiscal year 2011.
The adjusted net pension liability for Kansas's pension system in fiscal year 2011 was ranked 42nd. The following table presents key state-specific findings from the Moody's report, as well as the state's national rank with respect to each indicator.
|Adjusted net pension liabilities (ANPL) relative to key economic indicators - Alabama|
|Governmental revenue*||Personal income||State GDP||Per capita|
|State findings||23.1 percent||2.4 percent||2.2 percent||$988|
|*Moody's uses governmental revenues as reported in each state's consolidated annual financial reports; this includes not only state-generated revenue, but federal funds, as well.|
HB 2213: On June 7, 2013, Governor Sam Brownback signed into law HB 2113. While merely technical changes were made to KPERS, more substantive changes were made to the Judges and Police & Fire plans. Pension payments are calculated by a formula that uses the retiree's final average salary (usually the average of the retiree's final three years of employment), their years of service, and a service multiplier (a percentage multiplied by years of service usually between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent). For Police & Fire plan members, their plan had previously capped their annual pension benefits at 80 percent of their final average salary, but HB 2213 increased the cap to 90 percent. The employee contribution rate was raised from 7.0 percent to 7.15 percent. Also, employees would be allowed to contribute a lump sum before or on their retirement date to increase their annual pension benefit upon retirement. A final change applied to both Judges and Police & Fire plans. If the retiree were to divorce after retirement, the court could order the cancellation of the retiree's joint annuitant option. Designating a joint annuitant reduces a retiree's annual benefit, but allows for all or a portion of benefits to continue to the retiree's surviving spouse upon the retiree's death.
HB 2333: HB 2333 was set in motion due to the first primary component of HB 2194 (see below), which established a study commission to examine possible pension reforms. In order for the rest of HB 2194 to become active, the findings of the KPERS Study commission were required to be introduced as bills in both houses of the Kansas State Legislature and voted upon by each house.
Following the recommendations of the KPERS Study Commission, Governor Sam Brownback signed HB 2333 into law on June 1, 2012. Effective January 1, 2015, Tier 2 would join Tier 1 and be closed to new members, replaced by a Tier 3 plan. This cash-balance plan would have the following key characteristics:
- Each employee would have an individual account.
- Employees would contribute 6 percent of their salary and employers would contribute between 3 percent and 6 percent, depending on the employee's years of service.
- KPERS would continue to handle the investment of all accounts. Employees have no say in how funds are invested.
- Employees are guaranteed 5.25 percent returns on the investments. If investment returns make it possible, the employee would receive an additional contribution.
- Upon retirement, account balances will be annuitized, but employees may elect to withdraw up to 30 percent of their balance in a lump sum.
HB 2461: On April 12, 2013, Governor Sam Brownback signed into law HB 2461. This law allows for up to 15 percent of the KPERS investment portfolio to be put into "alternative investments," such as "private equity, private credit, hedge funds, infrastructure, commodities." Additionally, the law requires that the KPERS Board of Trustees study the impact of the alternative investments and submit a report to the Joint Committee on Pensions, Investments, and Benefits regarding the impact that allowing alternative investments has had on fund performance.
HB 2194: On June 1, 2011, Governor Sam Brownback signed HB 2194. This legislation ushered in several changes to KPERS benefits and funding. First, the law established the KPERS Study Commission, dedicated to studying and proposing alternative retirement plans. The Commission's recommendations must be introduced as legislation in both the Kansas House of Representatives and the Kansas State Senate. No other provisions of the bill could become active until both houses of the Kansas State Legislature voted on the Commission's recommendations.
Kansas had previously capped the employer contribution rate paid into the pension funds at 0.6 percent. Annual Required Contributions are calculated annually and they are a sum of two different calculations. The first component is the "normal cost," or what the employer owes to the system in order to support the liabilities gained in the previous year of service. The second component is an additional payment in order to make up for previous liabilities that have not yet been paid for. This cap on annual contributions had prevented jurisdictions from paying the amount actuarially required to maintain responsible funding levels, and therefore contributed to the poor overall funding of pension systems in Kansas. The second major component of HB 2194 doubled the allowed contribution rate to 1.2 percent by FY2017 (January 1, 2017 for political subdivisions participating in the system) to better allow for appropriate pension funding.
The third key part of the HB 2194 modifications was a set of benefits options given to pension fund members. Tier 1 pension members (employees hired before July 1, 2009) would then have two options. The first option would include an increased employee contribution from 4.0 percent to 6.0 percent and an increased service multiplier from 1.75 percent to 1.85 percent for subsequent years. For an employee who contributed to the plan for 15 years before the change and 10 years after, retiring with a $50,000 salary, this change would mean a $500 (2.2 percent) annual increase in pension payment in exchange for an additional 2 percent contribution in annual salary for the years following the pension change. The second option would include freezing the employee contribution rate at 4.0 percent and reducing the service multiplier for subsequent years from 1.75 percent to 1.4 percent. For an employee who contributed to the plan for 15 years before the change and 10 years after, retiring with a $50,000 salary, this change would mean a $1,750 (8.7 percent) annual decrease in pension payment in exchange for maintaining a 4 percent contribution in annual salary.
For Tier 2 pension members (employees hired after July 1, 2009) also had two options. The first option would include freezing their employee contribution rate at 6.0 percent and eliminating the annual post-retirement cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) meant to increase pension income as inflation and other factors increases the cost of living over the course of retirement. The second option would include reducing their future service multiplier from 1.75 percent to 1.4 percent while retaining their COLA. As COLAs fluctuate from year to year, calculating the concrete cost of either option is complex.
HB 2403: On March 18, 2013, the House Committee on Appropriations introduced HB 2403, which would issue $1.5 billion in pension obligation bonds to cover part of the KPERS unfunded liability. The Senate Committee on Ways and Means recommended the bill be passed by the full chamber on April 5, 2013.
HB 2301: On February 12, 2013, the House Committee on Pensions and Benefits introduced HB 2301. This bill would reduce the guaranteed 5.25 percent returns on the investments for Tier 3 retirees enacted in HB 2333 to 5.0 percent.
SB 259: On January 9, 2012, Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis proposed Senate Bill 259, dedicating revenues from state-owned casinos to pensions for teachers and government workers as part of a broader bill that would aim to bolster the long-term financial health of the state's retirement system. The idea had bipartisan support and the backing of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. The state had already committed $10.5 million a year in casino revenues through 2021 to boost state universities' engineering programs. Davis' proposal, embraced by the House, would dedicate 75 percent of the remaining revenues to KPERS, starting in July 2013. There were no solid estimates of how much that would be, but Davis predicted it could be several billion dollars over the next 20 years. For the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2013, the casinos were expected to generate $80 million in revenues for the state, but that figure was expected to climb. The bill died in conference on June 1, 2012, as the conference committee could not reconcile the different versions of the bill passed by the House and the Senate.
Local public pensions
- See also: Local government public pensions
According to the United States Census Bureau, the state has 7 locally-administered pension systems.
- Financial reports, benefits details, and other information is posted on the fund's website. Names of pension recipients and amounts disbursed to recipients are not available. Under state law, the release of any confidential information requires authorization in writing by the member of the pension system.
- Investment performance data, including performance by asset allocation and a ten year history of annual rates of return, is available on both an investment page on fund's website and in annual financial reports.
- Unfunded liabilities are listed in the actuarial section of each year's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
- Laws are in place regulating gifts and hospitality by board members and pension fund managers. Board members and managers are required to submit financial disclosure information, although those filings are not required to be audited externally. An external auditor's report is included in each Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Kansas + public + pensions"
- All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.
- Kansas Public Employees Retirement System Website
- Kansas State Pension Fund Management - State Integrity Investigation
- Figures below are compiled by adding up all state pension plans
- This figure is derived by calculating the percent difference between the current year's funding level and the system's percent funded from the prior year.
- Rank is relative to the 50 state pension programs. "1" refers to the healthiest pension plan while "50" would be the least well-funded plan.
- KPERS "2012 Valuation," Accessed November 5, 2013
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- Kansas Public Employee Retirement System 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Accessed October 25, 2013
- KPERS Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, accessed August 21, 2013
- Cavanaugh MacDonald Consulting. Accessed October 17, 2013
- Governing Magazine " Is There a Plot Against Pensions?" October 14, 2013
- State Budget Solutions, "Promises Made, Promises Broken - The Betrayal of Pensioners and Taxpayers," accessed September 20, 2013
- American Academy of Actuaries "Issue Brief: The 80% Pension Funding Standard Myth," July 2012. Accessed October 23, 2013
- United States Government Accountability Office Report to the Committee on Finance, U.S. Senate "State and Local Government Retiree Benefits: Current Status of Benefit Structures, Protections, and Fiscal Outlook for Funding Future Costs," September 2007. Accessed October 23, 2013
- "Trillion Dollar Gap: State Factsheets," February 18, 2010. accessed October 17, 2013
- KPERS membership guide, accessed August 21, 2013
- US Census, 2011 Annual Survey of Public Employment and Payroll
- "Public Employee Retirement Systems State- and Locally-Administered Pensions Summary Report: 2010", United States Census Bureau, April 30, 2012
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development "Pensions Glossary," accessed November 27, 2013
- Government Accounting Standards Board Annual Required Contribution (ARC). Accessed October 17, 2013
- State Budget Solutions, "How States Underfund Public Pensions," November 2, 2012
- Kansas Public Employee Retirement System 2009 Valuation Report. Accessed October 24, 2013
- Reuters "Little-known U.S. board stokes hot pension debate," July 10, 2012
- State Budget Solutions "GASB's ineffective public pension reporting standards set to take effect," June 5, 2013
- Center for State & Local Government Excellence "Issue Brief The Funding of State and Local Pensions: 2012-2016," June 2013. Accessed October 23, 2013
- "The Widening Gap Update,” Pew Center on the States, accessed October 17, 2013
- The New York Times "Public Pensions Faulted for Bets on Rosy Returns," May 27, 2012
- Benefits Magazine "Public Pension Funding 101: Key Terms and Concepts," April 2013. accessed October 23, 2013
- Crain's Chicago Business "State teachers pension board lowers expected rate of return," September 21, 2013. accessed October 23, 2013
- Huffington Post "California Pension Funds Expect Lower Investment Return," March 14, 2012. accessed October 23, 2013
- Governing "Expert: Governments Are Masking Their Pension Liabilities ," October 25, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
- The Washington Post "Kansas’s pension funding gap just grew by $1 billion," September 6, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
- Topeka Capital-Journal "KPERS' unfunded liability rises to $10.2B," September 4, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
- Wall Street Journal "Pensions Wrestle With Return Rates," October 10, 2011. accessed October 23, 2013
- The Courant "Promising Too Much On Public Pensions," August 10, 2012. accessed October 23, 2013
- Business Wire "NCPERS 2013 Survey: Public Pension Plans Report Increasing Confidence, Lower Costs, Growing Returns," October 22, 2013. accessed October 25, 2013
- National Association of State Retirement Administrators "Issue Brief: Public Pension Plan Investment Return Assumptions," October 2013. accessed October 23, 2013
- State Budget Solutions, "Promises Made, Promises Broken - The Betrayal of Pensioners and Taxpayers," accessed September 20, 2013
- Moody's Investor Service "Adjusted Pension Liability Medians for US States," June 27, 2013
- Kansas State Legislature "HB 2213," Accessed November 5, 2013
- S Sub for Sub HB2333. Accessed October 16, 2013
- Kansas State Legislature "HB 2333 (2012)," Accessed October 16, 2013
- National Conference of State Legislatures Highlights of State Pension Reform in 2012, July 17, 2012. Accessed October 16, 2013
- Kansas State Legislature "HB 2461," Accessed October 17, 2013
- HB 2460. Accessed October 17, 2013
- HB2194 (2011). Accessed October 16, 2013
- National Conference of State Legislatures Pensions and Retirement Plan Enactments in 2011 State Legislatures, January 31, 2012. Accessed October 16, 2013
- S Sub for HB 2194. Accessed October 16 2013
- Kansas State Legislature "HB 2403," Accessed October 17, 2013
- HB 2301 overview. Accessed October 17, 2013
- Kansas State Legislature "HB 2301," Accessed October 17, 2013
- Hutchinson Kansas News, Kan. closer to using casinos to support pensions, May 14, 2012
- H Sub for SB259. Accessed October 17, 2013
- KPERS.org "Home Page" accessed January 3, 2013
- Kansas State Statutes "Chapter 74, Article 49" Accessed January 3, 2013
- KPERS "Investment Performance," accessed January 3, 2013
- KPERS "Reports Section," Accessed November 3, 2013
- State Integrity Investigation "Kansas, State Pension Fund Management" Accessed November 27, 2013
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