Legislature can't afford to punt on pension reform but Washington can on sequester, Grayson says

03/08/2013 12:39 PM

The General Assembly has no excuses to avoid shoring up Kentucky’s pension system for state and local government workers and shouldn’t wait until a special session, said former Secretary of State Trey Grayson.

Grayson, now the director of Harvard Institute of Politics, said on Pure Politics Tuesday that finding more money to put into the system is a tough debate. But that doesn’t allow lawmakers to take a pass. And Grayson offered a frank assessment of the performance of the governor and legislative leaders on the issue.

“There are no good answers on pension reform. The worst answer is to do nothing, which is what they seem to maybe be doing this session,” Grayson said. (0:30 of the interview.)

The governor had a meeting with legislative leaders yesterday — the first such huddle since pension reform seemed in jeopardy. Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown told Pure Politics he had “nothing new to report” about the meeting.

But Grayson said Beshear needs to be much more forceful in making sure something gets done.

“Well, he shouldn’t be Nero fiddling while Rome burns,” Grayson said. “To some extent you see that with the Beshear administration. Nice guy, everybody likes the governor, there’s a lot of things to really admire about him, and his administration. But his ability to get the legislature to accomplish things, to be a leader in the way to say Governor Patton was — in his first term in particular. Governor Beshear has never shown any ability to do that.”

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who has been in charge of the House since 2009, could risk a political hit if the session ends in an impasse, especially after lawmakers billed the session “a new day” after Senate President David Williams left to become a judge.

“It puts the spotlight on him in particular and his leadership, I don’t think there is a threat to his leadership per say, but I think there could be some questions if this is a failed session,” Grayson said. “Williams is gone. David always got more – I think an unfair amount of blame, and now Stumbo is still there.”

As for the debate in Washington, Grayson said he agrees with U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell that the total amount of the cuts per year — $85 billion — is modest. He said the type of reduction that will mean for most agencies is what he had to deal with in his last several years as Kentucky’s secretary of state.

“They are pretty modest. When I was in office we had cuts like this every year that took place,” Grayson said. “That percentage is a really small percentage. It still doesn’t get you back to where you were two years ago. I think the problem was the across the board nature with out a lot of flexibility.”


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