Today the Kansas Legislature passed a bill authorizing the Kansas Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Savings Program, an initiative that will provide individuals living with disabilities a new way to save for their future.
The program, introduced by Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes and Representative Erin Davis (R-Olathe) in January, was nearly halted in the legislative process until Senators Greg Smith (R – Overland Park) and Molly Baumgardner (R – Louisburg) included the ABLE Act language in a separate financial services bill, HB 2216.
The bill passed in the House with a 116 - 4 vote and now heads to Governor Sam Brownback’s desk for signature.
“I’m elated that we’ve successfully crossed this first milestone and look forward to seeing this initiative through to the finish line,” said Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes. “Passage of the Kansas ABLE Savings Program has opened the door for Kansans living with disabilities to take charge of their future.”
The Kansas ABLE Savings Program will be administered by the State Treasurer’s Office and will allow disabled individuals and their families to save for their child’s future education, health and wellness costs, housing, transportation and related expenses in a tax-deferred savings account comparable to a Roth IRA.
“Under current law individuals with disabilities face significant challenges when it comes to maintaining employment and living an independent life since access to certain Federal support programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income can be lost if they exceed an asset ceiling limit of $2,000 in savings,” explained Estes. “This restriction is particularly concerning as it makes any degree of long-term financial planning extremely difficult and creates a disincentive to work.”
Assets in ABLE accounts will be sheltered from asset tests for Medicaid and Social Security Disability benefits within limits established by federal legislation.
“With the Kansas ABLE Savings Program Kansas families like mine will be able to save for their children so that they may have a secure and independent future without the fear of losing their eligibility for important Federal benefits,” said Jawanda Mast, parent of Rachel Mast who both testified in support of the Kansas ABLE bill in February.
Children and adults whose disability occurred before age 26 and who meet Social Security disability standards or have a disability certification will be eligible to have an ABLE account. Friends and relatives will be able to contribute up to $14,000 per beneficiary each year.
“I’m proud to have been a part of this collective effort and am especially grateful for the unwavering support and dedication of our disabled advocacy groups and state legislators who served as a driving force behind this success,” said Representative Erin Davis (R-Olathe).
Ron Estes is the 39th state treasurer for the state of Kansas and is the first state-wide elected official from the city of Wichita in 20 years. He was elected to serve as the Midwest Regional Vice President for the National Association of State Treasurers 2012-2013, and now serves on the College Savings Plans Network Executive Board. Ron has also served as Sedgwick County Treasurer and as the treasurer for the Kansas County Treasurers’ Association. He was born in Topeka and is a fifth-generation Kansan. His family continues to run a farm in Osage County. Ron and his wife, Susan, have three children.