Members of a House panel wrestled Monday with how best to dispose of Gov. Laura Kelly's plan to refinance the pension system for state workers.

They settled on advancing the proposal without recommendation to the House floor, where the Republican-dominated chamber can amplify rejection of a cornerstone in the Democratic governor's budget.

Kelly's plan for reamortizing the state's decades old debt to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System would extend the payment plan from 15 to 25 years, lowering annual payments before they balloon in the coming years. Opponents of the plan gawk at the $4.4 billion in interest that would be added to the debt.

Committee members debated whether advancing the plan to the full chamber was a sign of respect for the governor or a political stunt. They could have killed the bill but sent it forward on a 9-6 vote.

"We need to remember that this is the governor's bill, and I would really like to see this go on the floor for discussion," said Rep. Boyd Orr, R-Fowler. "I think it's important to just give her that respect that I think she deserves."

Rep. Leo Delperdang, R-Wichita, favored immediate rejection.

"This bill is wrong," Delperdang said. "It's a huge cost to the state, and I do not respect it."

Democrats split on the opportunity to keep the bill alive or let it die.

Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, said she supported a full chamber debate as a matter of transparency. But Rep. Stan Frownfelter, D-Kansas City, disagreed.

Frownfelter pointed to actions taken by the Legislature under former Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican. Lawmakers grappling with depleted revenues from Brownback's tax experiment repeatedly skipped KPERS payments, which escalated future costs.

Kelly's plan includes an immediate $268 million transfer into KPERS to compensate for missed payments.

"We have a job to do," Frownfelter said, "and if we don't agree with it here, we kill it here. I just wish the previous governor would have had that thought before he did some of the things he did, or we wouldn't be in this position right now. But I don't think we need to take it to the body unless we're trying to make a political announcement."

The current annual payment of $702 million is scheduled to escalate to $1.091 billion by 2033. The higher payments are expected to force reamortization eventually, but lawmakers are inclined to stay the course as long as tax collections remain steady.

"When the state of the economy of our great state is in great shape, we should work a real strong effort to pay down our debts," said Rep. Doug Blex, R-Independence, who opposes the Kelly plan but voted to advance it.

Rep. Tom Cox, R-Shawnee, said he would prefer to leave the decision to reamortize to the KPERS board of trustees, which has both the authority to refinance and a fiduciary responsibility to do what is best for the retirement system.

"I don't want to set a precedent of the Legislature reamortizing when we potentially need funds. I also don't want to demonize the governor as I think has happened in the media at times over this," Cox said. "I think she is attempting to be fiscally responsible in seeing that there is an eventual cliff that we know we can't fund in a few years when the payments jump significantly. I just think she's a few years early on this recommendation."