Senate passes pension reform bill out of committee as retirees promise to vote out lawmakers supporting bill

03/07/2018 03:19 PM

FRANKFORT — Over the outcry of more than 100 teachers, state workers and retirees Republican Senators on the State Government Committee moved the controversial pension reform bill to the full Senate on Wednesday with a 7 to 4 vote.

Retirees, teachers and state workers flooded the halls and committee rooms shouted down state Senators as they spoke in favor of the pension reform plan, which would reduce benefits for some state workers. Many in the audience promised to vote the lawmakers out-of-office come election time, and announced they would sue to protect their benefits.

Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, submitted the actuarial analysis to the committee, which he said showed the bill would save “roughly” $3.2 billion over a 20 year time frame, to which those in the audience shouted, “At our expense.” Bowen said the plan would “put us on the road to recovery.” The savings comes primarily through a reamortization of debt under the Kentucky Teachers Retirement Systems and a reduction to cost of living adjustments.

Read the letters addressing the analysis here: KRS SB 1 PSS AA FINAL.pdf

The bill does little to change the outlook for the Kentucky Retirement Systems and the Judicial and Legislative Systems, Bowen said. However, resetting the amortization period will help the employer contributions, he added.

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, questioned Bowen about the plan and the cost savings expected to the state through the benefit reductions to COLAs and reamortization. Cutting cost of living adjustments by half, is “the big cost saver,” Bowen said.

“I think because there’s evidence that the teacher’s put their money in and pre-funded their COLAs going back to even actuarial reports to the early 90’s … if there is a lawsuit against this and they are taken away, and then we have the reamortization I’m trying to get what the actual savings of the bill would be, if those two things are not present and I would posit I don’t think it’s significant,” McGarvey said.

Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, asked permission to amend the bill in an effort to restore the 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment in the legislation — Bowen denied that petition from Ridley, and another offered by McGarvey citing committee rules.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, defended the bill providing testimony and letters, showing that the funding is only 20 percent of the problem, pointing to other systemic issues as need for the reform bill.

The bill cleared the committee with Senators Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill; Albert Robinson, R-London; Wil Schrdoer, R-Wilder; Dan Seum, R-Fairdale; Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown; and Bowen voting in favor of the bill.

Senators Harper Angel, D-Louisville; Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville; Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson and Stan Humphries, R-Cadiz voted against the bill in committee.

Teachers, state workers and retirees booed, and shouted “vote them out,” as the bill was reported passed by the committee.

Nema Brewer, a public employee, said she was “pretty hot” over the bill’s passage. Brewer said she’s not given up hope in fighting the bill as it hits the Senate floor and then the House; adding lawmakers who vote for the bill will meet their fate at the ballot box.

“Let me tell you something brother, you just wait and watch,” Brewer told Pure Politics. “I’m gonna tell you now each and every one of use are going to be at the polls come November 2018 — we’re going to hit the streets, we’re going to campaign against them, we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure every neighbor, all of our friends, all of our family — every single one of them knows who voted for what — we’re going to social media — we’re gonna blow them up on Twitter, and I’ll tell you something now, some of these people are never going to cast a vote against the working people of this state again after November 2018.”

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