Special Session avoided: Pension bills get final approval

03/26/2013 09:24 PM

With a flurry of activity the House and Senate found the middle ground on a comprehensive pension reform plan with and funding for it with four hours to spare in the 2013 legislative session.

The chambers approved the two pieces of the reform — the funding and structural changes — by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

At 6:30 p.m., the House approved a bill with a funding mechanism to increase the payment the state will make into the Kentucky Retirement System for state and local workers. The bill met little resistance in the House chamber.

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, spoke against the funding mechanism because the plan adds nearly $100 million in new revenue into the general fund, which he said would be tempting for future legislatures to divert.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, told reporters later at a celebratory press conference that designating a revenue stream to pensions would have been a mistake.

“You don’t want a dedicated funding stream because … if it doesn’t raise enough you have to have an alternative plan. If it raises too much you have to figure out what to do with the surplus,” Stivers said.

Wayne, a member of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform, also said the move to fund pensions “knocked out” the effort for comprehensive tax reform sometime over the next year.

The bill cleared the House 82-17. The measure then made its way to the Senate for final passage with a 35-3 vote in the upper chamber.

The Senate first acted on SB2 , the pension reform bill, while the House voted on the funding mechanism. Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, explained the changes from the original bill to members.

The Senate passed the pension reform bill with a 32-6 vote. The House gave final passage to the measure 70-28.

Rep. Denny Butler, D-Louisville, told members he had wavered on his vote, but it was the promise of more action next year to use additional revenue from Keno lottery sales that brought his vote in.

Butler said that House leadership has promised to draft a bill in the 2014 session that would use Keno revenue to fund cost of living adjustments until the pension system is solvent.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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