Beshear and Williams disagree on need for further pension reforms

12/07/2010 10:13 AM

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and Republican state Senate President David Williams, who is running for governor, have vastly different assessments of the long-term financial security of the pension system for state employees.

Williams has advocated for future state hires to have 401(k)-like retirement benefits in which employees’ retirement payments are matched by the state.

That’s in contrast to the current system in which employees received a set pension check every month after their retirement. The amounts are determined by a formula using the highest three salaries the retiree had with the government and time of service.

Beshear, however, said the legislature did enough to future employees’ retiree benefits with some changes made in a special session in 2008.

The biggest piece of the legislation passed in the 2008 special session that Beshear referenced was to put the legislature back on track to eventually paying into the system what the state should have all along. But for years, the General Assembly used that money as an extra piggy bank and diverted some of it to pay other government bills.

The changes to future retiree benefits were fairly mild, said state Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville. Buford said that legislation was a missed opportunity to do more.

“We gave some good bullet points for the newspapers, and then we drove home,” Buford said. “We didn’t change anything.”

Williams, meanwhile, made his case for further reforms last month at the Kentucky Association of Counties’ statewide conference in Louisville:

(Programming note: On Tuesday night’s edition of Pure Politics, House Speaker Greg Stumbo will give his opinion on the issue.)

- Ryan Alessi


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