Sen. Givens says pension issue is 'most important' in 2012 budget session

06/21/2011 08:30 AM

Kentucky’s public employee pension system will be the “most important issue we’ll face” in the 2012 legislative budget session, Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, told Pure Politics.

The pension system has been Givens’ focus since he was first elected in 2008. And during the 2011 session, Givens supported Senate Bill 2 sponsored by Republican Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown that would change new state hires pension system into a 401(k)-like system and separate it from the current defined benefit system currently in place.

That bill passed the state Senate, but was never considered in the state House of Representatives. It would have closed off the current state employee pension systems to create a broad, new system that would be like a 401(k). The bill would not affect current state workers, Givens said.

But, he admitted the bill would have initially cost the state money as it would need to pay off pensions of current state workers without the benefit of new state workers paying into the old system. But Givens said the bill would have fixed the pension system and saved the state money in the long term.

Givens blames the lack of leadership from the governor’s office for failure to reform the underfunded pension plan.

“I’m frustrated we lack leadership in the administration to move forward on the issue,” Givens said.

Years of underfunding and borrowing from the pension system has left the fund in disarray, with many lawmakers saying changes need to be made to save the pensions of state workers and retirees.

Givens said that as long as the pension issue goes ignored, the worse the situation will get. He added that as long as the pension system remains in trouble, so will the rest of the state’s economy.

And he said that Beshear has to “acknowledge we have a problem” before many lawmakers take the pension issue seriously. One way to get the discussion started, he said, would for the Ky. Chamber of Commerce to get involved.

_Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed the sponsor of S.B. 2 in 2010. It was Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown. _

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