Senate leaders say "phase-in" pension bill won't pass without SB 1

03/16/2018 03:43 PM

FRANKFORT – Senate Republican leaders say don’t expect Senate Bill 66, the so called phase-in bill, to pass if the pension reform bill, Senate Bill 1, is not passed. The phase-in bill would allow local governments, school boards and other governmental agencies, like mental health boards, to phase in the much higher pension contributions that will be required to bail out the pension funds.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said that SB 66 is a companion bill and can only be passed if SB 1 is passed by the General Assembly.

“You’re phasing in to a fixed dynamic, where if you don’t have Senate Bill 1, you’re just putting off the inevitable and you are increasing your unfunded liability at the same time,” Stivers said.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, agreed with Stivers, saying that you can’t have one without the other.

“It would be fiscally irresponsible of us to pass Senate Bill 66 without Senate Bill 1,” Thayer said. “They were originally part of the same document, the same negotiations that we worked on with the House of Representatives.”

Many local government and school board leaders have said that the additional pension payments will deplete their budgets.

There is speculation that a special session could be called to address the pension issue, but many question that, with both the House and Senate seemingly losing yes votes on SB 1. It could be even more difficult to pass a pension reform bill after the 2018 60-day session concludes on April 13.

“I don’t know, I can’t answer that, Stivers said. “I had hoped early in the session that we would be done and completed with our work by the 14th, I think that is less and less likely.”

Thayer said that coming to an agreement on SB 1 is dependent on more than just Senate votes.

It’s also linked to the vote count in the House, so there are House members and Senate members who have to think deep in their soul and decide if they want to do the right thing and put us on a path to solvency,” Thayer said.

Meanwhile, Stivers expects Senate action on the budget bills as early as Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

“We have been having discussions among our working group, which includes most of the leadership members of our caucus,” Stivers said. “The chairman, Senator McDaniel has been reaching out to other individuals, I understand he has had conversations with the minority leadership, some conversations with the House.”

One thing that you won’t see in the Senate version will be the 50 cents per pack cigarette tax or the 25 cents per dose opioid tax that is in the House version.

“The opioid tax has legal problems,” Stivers said. “As to a stand alone tobacco tax, I do not believe that to be good taxing policy.”

Thayer, says a number of other priority bills should see action next week.

Stivers said that the General Assembly is leaving the door open to possibly use next Friday, March 23 as a legislative day despite being scheduled as an off day.

Due to inclement weather, the legislature did not meet on Friday, January 12 and therefore have an extra day that could be used if needed.

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