Now competing with pension system for dollars, UofL's Ramsey once backed shorting the system

01/28/2013 07:59 AM

The presidents of Kentucky’s public universities have seen their state funding backslide to levels from six or seven years ago and could see them erode further if lawmakers decide to divert more money to the public employee pension system.

So the University of Louisville’s president, James Ramsey, now finds his institution potentially losing out on state money partially because of decisions he helped make more than a decade ago.

Ramsey served as state budget director for Gov. Paul Patton until 2002. That year, Patton called for reducing the amount the state would pay into the Kentucky Retirement System, which covers pensions for state, city and county workers and the state police.

At the time, Patton and Ramsey said it was a one-time move meant to free up money for other programs and would in no way jeopardize the solvency of the retirement fund. The problem, though, is that lawmakers and governors for the next five two-year state budgets never authorized the full payment to the pension systems again.

And now the Kentucky Retirement System is about five years away from going bust. That’s why a legislative panel has called for finding an extra $300 million for the 2015 fiscal year so that Kentucky can make its full payment and stop the financial bleeding.

So while Ramsey was in studio earlier this month, I asked he thinks the state should do to shore itself up financially and whether, in retrospect, it was a mistake to short the state’s payment into the retirement system. Here’s that interview:


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