Pension funding bill, we hardly knew ye; But other pension reforms still have promise

02/28/2013 08:14 PM

The Senate on Thursday refused to accept the pension funding bill that the House passed the day before, effectively ending its brief but exciting legislative life.

Still, Senate members say there is time left in the session — nine work days, at least — to make systemic changes to the financially beleaguered public pension system.

The Senate rejected the House’s funding bill because revenue bills in a odd-year 30-day sessions require approval of three-fifths of each chamber to become law. The House passed the measure with a 52-47 vote. But Stivers said that wasn’t the only reason to reject the bill, which sets up a trust account for the Kentucky Retirement System to capture extra revenue from new lottery games like Keno and instant racing at horse tracks. Here’s what else he said:

The ill-fated funding bill wasn’t the only pension-related legislation the House sent over to the Senate this week. The lower chamber re-wrote Senate Bill 2, which is aimed at making systemic changes to the Kentucky Retirement System that covers state, city and county workers plus the state police.

The Senate chose not to concur with changes the House made to Senate Bill 2. The original version had mirrored the bipartisan interim Public Pension Task Force recommendations.

Most notably, the House eliminated the bill’s proposal to have new hires pay into a hybrid cash balance plan that would pay out at least 4 percent interest on the amounts the employee and state or local government put into it. That’s aimed at minimizing the risk to the governments as the stock market fluctuates. Instead, House Democrats moved to stick with a pension plan that minimizes the risk on employees.

In a floor speech Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgtown, said he was “exasperated” and “stupefied” at the changes the House made to the pension bill.

Thayer, who co-chaired the pension task force, said he thought there was still time to come to an agreement on the bill and mentioned the likelihood of a conference committee being called to work out differences on the bill between the House and Senate.

Senate leaders said they believe they have already made concessions during the task force process. However, Thayer told reporters they could negotiate some on the original version of the bill, but the House version “gutted” the reforms they felt could pass.

“I was certainly willing to accept, changes or tweaks to various aspects of the bill, but they gutted it,” Thayer said.

When asked by Pure Politics what those changes he could accept Thayer said, “I may be a bad poker player, but not that bad.”


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.