Mum's the word from top lawmakers as pension reform talks near resolution

10/04/2017 04:36 PM

FRANKFORT — House Speaker Jeff Hoover said many Kentuckians will breathe “a big sigh of relief” when lawmakers unveil their pension reform proposal, but details were scarce after top lawmakers met Wednesday in Frankfort.

Hoover said those working on the proposal agreed not to disclose specifics before it’s unveiled, and he declined to elaborate on comments by Governor Matt Bevin in a radio interview Tuesday, during which the governor said new public workers and those who aren’t promised defined-benefit pensions would receive 401(k)-style defined-contribution plans.

“In our meetings we had an agreement not to discuss anything publicly with regard to the plan, and so I’m going to stick to that,” Hoover, R-Jamestown, said following Wednesday’s Legislative Research Commission meeting. “I’m not going to say anything publicly until we are in agreement that we can do that from the legislative side, and we’re not there yet.”

But a proposal to grapple with unfunded pension liabilities ranging from $37 billion to $64 billion, depending on which estimates are used, could be coming soon.

Hoover said details could be released sometime next week.

“We are much closer than we were three weeks ago,” he said. “I would hope that over the next several days, week to 10 days that we could move closer to where we would be in a position to make some public announcement. We’re not there yet.”

Hoover and other Republican leaders in the House met with their Democratic counterparts earlier Wednesday to update them on pension reform efforts, but House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins was equally evasive with specifics, saying they agreed not to disclose details of the meeting.

Adkins, who said he hasn’t been involved in crafting the proposal, did share some of his general concerns with the effort as a whole, particularly in maintaining the inviolable contract that governs retirement benefits for most state workers.

As part of pension reform efforts in 2013, lawmakers gave themselves leeway to amend future retirement benefits for those hired after Jan. 1, 2014, excluding teachers.

“For new employees you may have some flexibility, but again, when you go to a 401(k) how does that impact the existing pension plans that you have in effect now for those current employees and especially those retirees that those pension plans don’t end up in trouble?” said Adkins, D-Sandy Hook.

It’s still unclear exactly when a special session for pension reform will be called.

Hoover said they would need about three weeks to draft a bill and that he would like to give his members time to digest the proposal.

Both he and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the timing depends entirely on Bevin’s call.

“We have plenty of time between now and January of 2018 to do this, but we want to make sure that this is morally right, legally defensible, philosophically it does what we think it should do and fiscally is responsible to all people involved, both the recipients and the taxpayers of Kentucky,” Stivers said.

Stivers also said revenue measures have not been discussed during pension reform talks, saying lawmakers will decide how to finance the state’s underfunded public retirement plans during budget negotiations in next year’s legislative session.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

3 Comments

Comments

  • Ricky Lee Williams Jr. wrote on October 04, 2017 05:51 PM :

    President Trump said yesterday, while in Puerto Rico, that Wall Street and those who bought the junk bonds for Puerto Rico’s $70 billion debt should be prepared to take that loss. The people I talked to today said they won’t write down the whole $70 billion, but probably $60 billion of it will be lost. This will send a chill through the bond buying industry. 60% of municipal pensions are caught up in the purchase of the Puerto Rico debt.

    Puerto Rico and Kentucky are very similar. Puerto Rico is 120 miles by 35 miles wide. They have 3.4 million citizens. They have over 700 mayors. Government jobs, like here in Kentucky, is the only employment on the island. By having 120 counties, it put us behind the 8 ball years ago. They are corrupt as the day is long. They depend on tourism and have to import 85% of their goods. Their biggest employer, outside of government, is the electric company. It is similar to our water municipalities that too are corrupted for pay to play profits.

    It is time for everyone to tell the truth here. I get tickled hearing Rocky Adkins and hearing he is the front runner to be the next democrat candidate for governor. Rocky Adkins, along with many of them still left in the General Assembly, put all of these people on the state payroll without knowing how to pay for it. Now, this state employment, jobs for votes, is bipartisan. If you remember back a few years ago when Ritchie Farmer came to Frankfort, he put everyone in Clay County on the state payroll that Robert Stivers hadn’t already employed, courted, or been married to.

    The Yum Center is not going to get a decent rate, if and when it comes up for the bonds to be purchased.

    Kentucky, Illinois, and Connecticut are going to be looked at harder going forward. Puerto Rico’s bond debt guarantee dropped 14% today alone. The experts say it will drop below 10% soon. Donald Trump probably shouldn’t have said what he did, but he also knows the system and how it works.

    We republicans control it all, from Frankfort to Washington. I have told every senator, state representative, and every political operative I know that to call this special session without the public having any input or idea of what it is about, is a horrible idea. Greg Stumbo kept the democrats in power, in the House, for years, knowing how the state political system worked. Now, Gov. Bevin is going to call this special session and give the democrats enough time to find the candidates before the filing date, where every republican incumbent is going to get the best race in the general that the democrats can find. Don’t be surprised if a lot of republicans get primary challenger by other republicans.

    This right here is exactly what I and the majority of the state are sick of. These back door deals, where everything they are doing effects everyone of us, state employees and tax payers, from Paducah to Pikeville, but we don’t get to hear anything. RL

  • sadkyworker wrote on October 05, 2017 08:51 AM :

    Nothing they can come up with can be fiscally responsible if there is nothing done to increase revenue. The hole is too large and we already have a budget deficit! It doesn’t take a mental heavyweight to figure this out.

  • Geoff Young for Congress wrote on October 05, 2017 09:51 AM :

    The 2 comments by Ricky Lee Williams, Jr. and sadkyworker are much more interesting than anything those politicians had to say in the original article!

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