Gov. Bevin talks new building panel, Medicaid waiver application, gun violence and pensions in wide-ranging news conference

11/29/2016 04:23 PM

LOUISVILLE — Gov. Matt Bevin covered a plethora of topics in a wide-ranging press conference on Tuesday to announce the formation of the Housing, Buildings and Construction Advisory Committee as part of his administration’s efforts to reduce regulations.

The first-year Republican also touched on his expectations for the state’s Medicaid waiver application under President-elect Donald Trump, increasing gun violence in the state’s two largest cities and pension reforms on the horizon during a nearly hourlong news conference at the Building Industry Association of Greater Louisville.

The newly empaneled 14-member board will replace eight others that handled oversight of things like electrical work, plumbing and HVAC systems. David Dickerson, secretary of the Public Protection Cabinet, says the panel’s membership consists of seven Republicans and seven Democrats.

“They’re people who actually know what they’re talking about,” Bevin said.

“They’re people who have actually been there. They’re licensed plumbers. They’re master plumbers, master electricians. They’re people who have actually been business owners. They’re people who’ve dealt personally themselves and professionally with these very same issues.”

While part of Bevin’s focus will be on cutting down the amount of time to get projects through the bureaucratic pipeline, he says safety will be paramount.

“That is more than anything else the singular focus now,” he said.

Bevin touched on a number of other topics on Tuesday. He said he expects his administration’s Medicaid waiver application to be approved by the incoming administration. Proposals with similar provisions found in Kentucky’s waiver applications had been denied under President Barack Obama.

President-elect Donald Trump named Seema Verma, president and CEO of SVC Inc. as his new administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

SVC helped Bevin craft the state’s Medicaid waiver application.

“Do I think the presidential election will affect that? Oh you betcha,” Bevin said. “And do I think it will increase the odds of this being approved? I do, and in fact what I think you are going to see is a devolution of responsibility from the federal level down to the state level.”

Bevin said to also expect some form of pension reform soon, although he was light on details.

The Kentucky Retirement Systems’ unfunded liabilities have grown by about $2 billion to $32.6 billion, and the fund covering most state workers only has about 16 percent of the required assets to meet its liabilities, according to a Lexington Herald-Leader report on Monday’s Public Pension Oversight Board meeting.

The state has “a moral and a legal obligation” to maintain its obligations for current retirees, but Bevin says changes for current and future workers may be coming.

Hypothesizing on those changes “would be inappropriate,” he said, noting that policymakers and interested parties should look for potential solutions in other states that have grappled with mounting pension debt.

“There’s literally no financial way for these systems to continue the way they are now,” Bevin said.

Bevin also suggested that he would take a more hands-on approach to growing gun violence in the state’s largest city.

He wasn’t far from gunfire during this year’s Pegasus Parade, and just last week, two were killed and five were wounded in a shooting at the annual Thanksgiving football game dubbed the Juice Bowl.

In Lexington, U.S. Olympic track star Tyson Gay’s daughter Trinity, 15, was gunned down in a fast-food parking lot in October, caught between crossfire.

Bevin called the level of gun violence in Louisville and Lexington “heartbreaking” and said he has spoken with Mayors Greg Fischer and Jim Gray about the subject. He says he will “weigh in on this as needed.”

“The answer’s not necessarily a legislative one,” Bevin said. “It’s not. What we have here cuts far deeper. Again, I’m not going to go into my thoughts on it in its entirety, but you have a cultural problem.

“You have a spiritual problem. You have an economic problem. That’s what you have, period, and people who want to pretend that it’s something that can be legislated, that some more government rules are going to fix this are delusional. We don’t need more government rules to fix this. We need to address the root causes of this, and this is going to take a community that does some serious soul-searching.”


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