Rolling back pension perks for lawmakers better be part of reforms, Senator says

02/03/2013 04:16 PM

For lawmakers to have credibility to make changes to the Kentucky Retirement System, one key Republican senator said they must reverse a provision that allows lawmakers to substantially increase their pension checks if they switched to another government job.

An eight-year-old measure, House Bill 299 from the 2005 session, created what’s called “reciprocity,” in which a legislator who switches to a judicial or executive branch jobs can combine his or her years of service in the General Assembly with the highest three years of salary from the new job. Often, that amounts to a huge leap in benefits as lawmakers typically earn between $30,000 and $40,000 a year and most judicial and high-level executive branch jobs pay in the high five figures and low six figures.

Givens said in total, the more than a dozen former lawmakers who have taken advantage of reciprocity haven’t broken the bank. It’s more of a perception problem, he said.

“Ultimately, in the grand scheme of things, the dollar amount is minimal. But it does truly send the wrong message … because you discredit yourself as a legislator when you engage in those discussions about public pensions and you have the potential to cash out with a golden parachute. So I think it’s vital that we close that loophole,” Givens said (2:30 of the interview).

Find out if Givens expects that to be part of the pension system reform bill that Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, will sponsor and how much support he believes Senate Republicans will give to that provision.

Givens spoke with Pure Politics on Wednesday on his way to a joint briefing for Republicans and Democratic senators on the financial problems faced by Kentucky’s retirement fund for state, county and city workers as well as state police.

Givens alluded to support business groups have given to pension reform. And he mentioned that groups of retirees, most notably the Kentucky Public Pension Coalition, has concerns with some of the recommendations of a legislative task force.

Also watch the interview to find out where Givens, now the vice chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee, expects to find enough money for the state to make its full payment into the Kentucky Retirement System as the legislative task force has proposed (5:30).

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He has covered politics for more than 10 years, including 7 years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Follow Ryan on Twitter @cn2Alessi. Ryan can be reached at 502-792-1135 or


  • viewer wrote on February 03, 2013 05:07 PM :

    Excellent work Sen David Givens. I said earlier that if anyone from Frankfort had the courage to bring this up , I would give them credit. Thanks Sen. Givens for your leadership. I will bring you up to others when election time rolls around.

  • sadkywkr wrote on February 04, 2013 09:19 AM :

    I am glad to see someone finally stand up against this reciprocity bill. I think most legislators are afraid to buck up against their fellow legislators even if they know it is the right thing to do. I hope voters would remember who stood up for doing the right thing at election time. But we seem to keep electing the ones who have put us in this pension mess to begin with. Thank you Senator Givens and I wish I could vote for you.

  • Madie Dawkins wrote on February 04, 2013 09:57 AM :

    I agree…one reason the US is in such a sorry financial state is because the Government (NOT the people) spend, spend, spend. They also think that they are entitled to bigger and bigger raises. I would like all of them to be limited to two terms, if they can’t get it done in two years, they need to be working in another field. Working for your government should be a privilige, not a career.

    Now, let’s get the Term Limits going and boot the ‘part of the problem guys’ who have been in office for umteen years whilst accomplishing little and spending much. These guys should either retire or be let go so they can all go fishing with one another

  • Jim Carroll wrote on February 04, 2013 10:11 AM :

    SB 2 does nothing to put the pension system on a road to sustainability. A new cash-balance plan would NOT result in any future savings, according to the pension task force’s own partisan consultants.

  • Jim Anderson Stivers wrote on February 04, 2013 11:03 AM :

    If Speaker Stum has enough votes . . . it is certain he will move to have the retirment systems switch to the 401K. The details are all over the media. That would be costly and dilute the earnings of pensions. I have seen not mention of changes to the General Assemblly retiremet, whick is fully funded.

    jas in Frankfort.

  • sadkywkr wrote on February 04, 2013 11:56 AM :

    As I have listened again, I see Sen Stivers is as clueless as the rest. Getting rid of the reciprocity is the right thing to do but SB2 is NOT good for any state employee or retiree. It adds more political appointees to a place that should NOT have them in the first place. And it does nothing to shore up or save the floundering pension program. Sorry Sen Stivers, my vote would definitely be a NO!

  • Terry Donoghue wrote on February 04, 2013 05:45 PM :

    Finally a legislator is going to try and remove a bill that cast a black eye over all Kentucky politicians. The S & P has just downgraded KY’s rating to poor because of the pension liability. I spoke to the Task Force on Pension in August on HB 299 and stated that public doubts there will be real reform on our pension debt achieved by the same people who padded their own pension. A step in the right direction

  • sadkywkr wrote on February 05, 2013 10:41 AM :

    They also need to roll back the perks for legislators to be able to buy time they haven’t earned. And they should NOT provide their spouses with free health insurance. The only other group receiving that particular perk is state police retirees and at least they have risked their lives to care for the citizens of Kentucky. The legislators cannot say the same.

What do you have to say?


Subscribe to email updates.

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