Candidates for Kansas treasurer agreed last week that the state must find a solution to the unfunded liabilities of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System but differed on how to deal with the situation.

Current treasurer Dennis McKinney, the Democratic candidate, said state and local governments will have to increase their contributions to the system.

Sedgwick County Treasurer Ron ­Estes, the Republican candidate, said an advisory group should be formed that would recommend solutions to the Legislature.

About 260,0000 Kansans participate in the retirement system for state employees, public school teachers and staff, local government workers, police officers, firefighters, and state and local judges.

The system has an $11.8 billion portfolio, which is $7.7 billion less than needed to provide full coverage for active and retired workers. The system’s funding ratio ranges from 82% for judges to 56% for public school workers.

“I want to be the champion for KPERS, to take that to the Legislature, form a working group with the Legislature and the governor, to make sure that we address and resolve that funding shortfall,” Estes said at a news conference.

McKinney said he has been talking about the need for a solution to the pension plan’s woes for months, as have the system’s trustees.

“The KPERS board is unanimous in supporting the position that we’re going to have to have to make changes,” ­McKinney said.

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