State retiree says legislators should put on their "man pants" to deal with pension fund and keep promises

08/09/2012 07:55 AM

It’s well-known that Kentucky’s public employee pension system has been underfunded and now faces a total unfunded liability of nearly $30 billion. And perhaps no group is as interested in how Kentucky’s leaders will shore up the system than retirees who have paid their share into the system and now rely on its pension checks.

Jim Carroll, a former communications director for the state parks department, is one of the retired state employees who closely monitor the ever developing problems with the underfunded pension system. He and his wife, also a retired state worker, created a Facebook page to keep other retirees informed about developments with the Kentucky Retirement System.

Carroll said while dips in the stock market and cost of living adjustments have drained the pension fund, the single biggest cause of the hole the fund is in has been governors and lawmakers signing off on underfunding the state’s share over the last 10 years.

“They shorted us to the tune of $2.6 billion over the last decade” Carroll said (4:10).

Carroll said among the reforms state employees and retirees will have to prepare for are losing cost of living adjustments and ending the practice of double-dipping in which a retiree can get hired back by the state and continue drawing a pension check along with a government salary.

The options on what to do are few and unpleasant because, as Carroll said, no one wants to raise taxes or cut services. That leaves the question of whether the legislators cut into the amount promised to workers.

“It was a promise, we kept up our end of it. From the moment I started state government, I put in 5 percent until the moment I ended, I didn’t have a choice” Carroll described talking about the possibility of losing part of his pension.

Carroll disagreed with some legislators, such as House Speaker Greg Stumbo, that some state employees that make more than others should take a cut to their pensions which Carroll believes it is a violation of the inviolable contract made between employees and the government.

But overall, Carroll wants legislators to find a solution to these problems and soon.

“Pull up your man pants and make a decision. And don’t be talking about betraying the contract with state employees” (8:02).


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.