Lawmakers exchange barbs over legislative pension transparency

01/14/2016 03:45 PM

FRANKFORT — Over the last session lawmakers in the state Senate have passed legislation in an effort to open up transparency into the pension systems.

Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, has filed that bill again with a focus on lawmaker’s pensions, but not everyone in the legislature is in agreement on the need for transparency.

Speaking to Pure Politics at a panel hosted by the Kentucky Cable Telecommunications Association Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, took aim at Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, on the issue.

“I think as elected officials we have an obligation to our constituents and the taxpayers across Kentucky for them to know what our retirement is…,” Thayer said. “We get a statement once a year from the retirement system — I’ll just be fully transparent right now, Nick, and tell you so far after 13-years I’m qualified for $1,100 a month from the state retirement systems.”(6:30)

Thayer went on to say that he believes all the members of the legislature, and past General Assemblies should provide that level of transparency to the public.

Yonts said he sees the issue differently than Thayer. He agrees that as lawmakers in office are subjected to a higher degree of transparency, but that burden shifts as they retire and become private citizens.

“When one retires, whether you be in the legislature, teachers retirement, KERS or whatever system it is, and you’re no longer a public person that information ought to be hard to get, or confidential,” Yonts said.

Thayer reminded Yonts of an earlier statement this week calling the issue, “nobody else’s business,” a quote published by the Lexington Herald-Leader.

On Thursday, House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, took issue with that quote.

“It should surprise no one that House Democrats yet again cast aside transparency and accountability measures,” Hoover said in a statement. “They have no intention of ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently.

“Representative Yonts’ comments indicate he and Democratic Leadership are content to continue their status quo of operating behind closed doors,” Hoover continued. “The House Republican Caucus supports increased transparency with regard to all pensions, including legislative pensions through Senate Bill 45.”

Senate Bill 45 has not yet come to the floor of the state Senate for a full vote by the body.

Lawmakers also discussed changes to the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System and fielded questions on the need for additional funding for the Kentucky Retirement Systems in the video below.

Watch Pure Politics on Thursday night for more from the lively discussion including talk on public private partnerships — the entire panel discussion will air on Monday Jan. 18 on cn|2.


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