KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- One of the largest taxpayer organizations in the United States is in Kansas, calling for reform of government worker pensions. Taxpayers United of America claims many government employees will become pension millionaires after they retire, with taxpayers footing the bill.
Taxpayers United calculated the top 25 pensions for government employees in Wyandotte and Douglas counties. The group is using these numbers to back its claim that taxpayers can no longer afford to pay for generous pensions.
Taxpayers United claims that if Kansas City, Kansas, Police Chief Rick Armstrong retires at 55 and lives until he's 85, Kansas taxpayers will provide him nearly $3 million in pension payments. Armstrong tops the list of pension payouts for government workers in Wyandotte county. In all the grassroots group says the top 25 public pensions in Wyandotte county will cost taxpayers more than $54 million if all the retirees live to age 85.
"These are quite astronomical amounts," said Christina Tobin, vice president of Taxpayers United of America. "We're here to shed a light and connect these names with these amounts. These are pension payouts that the taxpayers of Kansas City, they pay for these pensions."
Other high-profile names on group's Wyandotte list:
County Administrator Dennis Hays can expect to receive more than $2.5 million in pension payments. Fire Chief John Jones, more than $2.8 million. Even Unified Government Public Relations Director Mike Taylor made the list, with estimated lifetime pension payments totaling more than $1.5 million. Taxpayers seemed stunned.
"I don't have a pension," said Vicki Smith of Kansas City, Kan. "My husband doesn't have a pension. My dad didn't have a pension. He died when he was 80. My mom is living on retirement savings now. That's how it ought to be. No, I don't like subsidizing government officials of any kind."
Taxpayers United says current employees should contribute at least 10 percent of their own money to their generous pensions. And the group says all new government workers should go into a 401k retirement plan, where they are responsible for saving for their own retirement. Wyandotte county taxpayers Fox 4 News talked with agree, saying that's how it works for them.
"I fund my own," said Heather Jones of Kansas City, Kan. "My company helps match some of what I put toward it, which I think is acceptable. But I still have to contribute to my own retirement plan. I work hard and I should be responsible for my own financial stability. I should not expect other people's hard earned money to pay my way."
Because of the President's Day holiday, FOX4 couldn't reach many of the Unified Government employees on the pension list. But a public safety worker on the list commented off camera, saying the pension helps attract people to careers in dangerous professions that require working holidays and all hours of the day and night. He also claims life expectancy for police officers after they retire is only about ten years.
To see Taxpayers United's complete list of top government pensions in the city of Lawrence, Wyandotte and Douglas counties, click here.