Senate and House lawmakers prefile bills to drop out of legislative retirement plans; "baby-steps" at goal of ending legislative pensions

09/29/2017 02:29 PM

Republican legislators in the state Senate and House of Representatives have prefiled bills which would allow state lawmakers to leave the state pension systems, and one lawmaker would like to see part-time lawmakers dropped from the pension systems altogether.

Sen. Rick Girdler, R-Somerset, and Rep. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, have filed similar legislation ahead of the 2018 session with the Legislative Research Commission. The bills would allow lawmakers with less than five-years of service in the General Assembly to elect to not participate in the Legislators’ Retirement Plan or the Kentucky Employees Retirement System.

The legislation specified that “members of the General Assembly who began contributing to the Legislators’ Retirement Plan or the Kentucky Employees Retirement System on or after December 31, 2014, but prior to April 1, 2018,” would be allowed to make a one-time decision by December 31, 2018, to discontinue their participation in the Legislators’ Retirement Plan or the Kentucky Employees Retirement System for their service to the General Assembly and receive a refund of accumulated contributions.

In a phone interview Sen. Girdler describes his bill as a common sense step to begin putting lawmakers on the same footing as state retirees.

“If you want to opt out you ought to be able to opt out of both of them,” Girdler said in a phone interview.

Girdler said by offering legislators who are not vested into the pension systems a “reason to opt out now, so we can save the state some money.”

“It’s a very minuscule thing, but we’ve got to do it somewhere,” he said. “We have to.”

The Somerset Republican has also filed a bill he wants to move hand-in-hand which would end the legislative retirement plans as of August, 5 2018 and put lawmakers still in pension plans into the underfunded Kentucky Employees Retirement System plan.

“Those are two separate bills, and I wanted lawmakers to look at them separately,” Girdler said.

Rep. Mills, who has filed a bill allowing lawmakers to opt out in the Senate, said he would like to even go a step further and end legislators’ ability to draw a retirement altogether. The former Henderson city commissioner said that “it seems like a pension is a little overreaching for a part-time lawmaker.”

Still, he sees the issue as of legislative pension as one of “baby steps,” and predicts the conversation will mirror larger pension conversations that will take place in a special session next month.

“I don’t want to put the folks that are in it, that have been in it for a while; it’ll probably be similar to what you see debated over the next couple of months that people are in the retirement system that have plans moving forward, and that may not be fair to end it,” he said in a phone interview on Friday. “Baby steps would first be to allow us, freshman that are coming in to opt out.”

Jim Carroll, co-founder of Kentucky Government Retirees, said he agrees that lawmakers should not receive retirement benefits.

“I think from our perspective we don’t understand why legislators receive retirement benefits; we don’t know of any other part-time employees anywhere in the commonwealth who receive pension benefits,” he said.

If legislative pensions do remain intact, Carroll said lawmakers should have “some skin in the game,” and put their pensions in the same pool as other state retirees.

“If they had been all along perhaps they would have paid a little more attention to funding our plan, because we know they did a good job of funding their own plan — they usually funded it at 100 percent,” Carroll said.


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