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

02/03/2013 03:16 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 is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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