136 Kentucky Retirement System pensioners received more than $100K in 2011

11/29/2012 11:25 AM

Of the nearly 100,000 retired state employees who received a state pension last year, 136 of them collected more than $100,000 in 2011, according to figures provided to Pure Politics by the Kentucky Retirement System.

The system doesn’t release names of individual pensioners and how much they receive, said Jennifer Jones, general counsel for the KRS. But the system did release the number of pensioners in specific income thresholds in response to an open records request.

Jones cited KRS 61.661 and 61.878(1)(1) which says, “Each current, former, or retired member’s account shall be administered in a confidential manner and specific data regarding a current, former, or retired member shall not be released for publication unless authorized by the member.”

The system currently makes monthly pension payments to 96,342 retirees, meaning those who get $100,000 make up .014 percent of those in the system.

The KRS also publicly lists the yearly average benefits from 2011 across the systems (KERS is the Kentucky Employee Retirement System that includes the most retirees and the CERS is the County Employee Retirement System and the SPRS is the State Police Retirement System):

KERS Non-Hazardous: $20,436
KERS Hazardous: $13,992
CERS Non-Hazardous: $10,872
CERS Hazardous: $24,672
SPRS: $36,840

The public employee pension systems have become like Kentucky’s version of the fiscal cliff with an unfunded liability of more than $30 billion dollars. Legislators on the Public Pension Task Force recommended that the state start paying the full required contribution (among other things) – which will mean coming up with more than $300 million more to pump into the Kentucky Employee Retirement System in 2015.

While some lawmakers saw a significant bump in their pensions when they left the legislature and switched to other higher-paying government jobs, those lawmakers who don’t change jobs receive comparatively modest pensions.

Retiring legislator and co-chair of the pension task force Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton, said at the last meeting on the task force that he will receive a pension of $14,000 a year after 14-years in the General Assembly.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm joined cn|2 in December 2011 as a reporter for Pure Politics. Throughout his career, Nick has covered several big political stories up close, including interviewing President Barack Obama on the campaign trail back in 2008. Nick says he loves being at the forefront of Kentucky politics and working with the brightest journalists in the commonwealth. Follow Nick on Twitter @Nick_Storm. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.



  • Adam wrote on November 29, 2012 02:27 PM :

    As an award winning investigative journalist, I suggest journalists petition KRS to become more transparent. While reporting in Kentucky, I was able to access public employees’ hourly or salary pay rates. I could even get drug test results.

    CN2, with what justification is KRS refusing to put names to these numbers? I want to know, and it’s not included in this story.

    Thank you, CN2, for this very interesting article.

  • Nick Storm wrote on November 29, 2012 05:28 PM :

    Hi Adam,

    I updated the story to reflect the statutes that the KRS cites. Feel free to look them up they’re hyper linked in the story: KRS 61.661 and 61.878(1)(1).

  • JDM wrote on November 30, 2012 10:31 AM :

    Although people receiving over $100,000 yr form KRS should feel ashamed, they are just a tip of the problem. Transparency, oversight, and full contibutions are a good place to start. It really hurts when the bills come due, especially if they get paid by the folks who did not benefit from building the debt.

  • Chris Tobe wrote on November 30, 2012 02:37 PM :

    My impression as a KRS board member was that most of all of the other board members and KRS staff feel strongly that pension benefits need to be secret and will lobby hard to keep them secret. I think there is also a lot of support for secrecy within the legislature and especially among many lobbyists who are in the pension system.

  • Lowell Reese wrote on February 04, 2013 10:07 PM :

    Glad you are exploring and reporting on transparency. Other than the inflow of at least some degree of ready cash to avert the approaching insolvency of the KERS, arguably nothing is more important than transparency in the long-term to correct the self-serving abuses and to safeguard the public employees’ retirement systems. If the public only knew what is going on in Frankfort in the retirement systems, there would a revolution.

    A couple of other points. The KRS and AG’s office have denied your Open Records request to view pension amounts of individual retirees. You might want to try confirming with them that an individual is actually enrolled in one of the state’s six retirement systems. I have asked that question under the Open Records Act, and their reply was, by law, we can’t tell you. In other words, even who’s in the retirement systems is a secret. What you and I have learned from this is, the secrecy is a creature of state law, not a federal statute. Four states have opened up state pension information to their citizens … Oregon, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio.

    On former Rep. Cherry’s $14,000 annually pension after serving 14 years in a part-time job, a key factor is years of service. For others who serve longer, particularly those who have bought “air” and/or “military service” time, a pension of $40,000 to $50,000 a year is not uncommon.

  • Bill H. wrote on November 22, 2013 01:46 PM :

    The only abuse in the retirement system is by the legislatures who come back to state employment. It’s interesting that those people benefit from the very laws they write.

    For the vast majority of state employees, this is just another attack on their very meager pensions.

    A pension of $40,000-$50,000 is quite uncommon among rank and file state employees. Even if a state employee makes $70,000 a year before retirement, that pension payment would only be around $36,000 a year. Most state employees make more in the range of $20,000-$40,000 a year, not $70,000.

    Let’s stop the politics and concentrate on shoring up the pension system instead of tearing it down. It is good for the middle-class, good for businesses who need their dollars, and good for the state.

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