State retirees say they won't breathe easier until pension fund level goes up

02/10/2014 10:51 PM

Yes, the General Assembly passed a law last year with a funding mechanism so Kentucky’s government can make it’s full payment into the state retirement system. And yes, Gov. Steve Beshear and lawmakers have pledged to make good on that in the next two-year biennial budget.

But please excuse state retirees if they’re not ready to relax quite yet about the state of the $14.6 billion fund, which paid out $1.7 billion in benefits to retirees last year.

The recent change hardly makes up for the financial sins of governors and legislators of the past, who for 12 straight years signed off on budgets that failed to make the state’s full payment into the retirement system.

As a result, the fund has less than a quarter of the money it needs to cover retirement benefits for current and future retirees from non-hazardous state jobs and quasi-governmental agencies that are also part of the system.

“I’m not sure I’ll live long enough to have a sigh of relief that it’s in stable condition unless they make some decisions — the General Assembly makes some decisions to dedicate some additional funds to this,” said Paul Guffey, president of the Kentucky Public Retirees, the organization that advocates on behalf of retired state workers.

Guffey, who retired from Oakwood Community Center in Somerset in 1996, serves as president of the group. Shirley Clark, who worked for the Transportation Cabinet for 32 and one year in personnel before retiring in 1991, is the group’s vice president and liaison to the legislature and retirement system.

Both answered questions about sources of extra money for the Kentucky Retirement System in Part 1 of the interview:

(Later on this week, Guffey and Clark answer questions about retirees’ assessment of the oversight of the Kentucky Retirement System as well as proposals in the legislature to allow public disclosure of the amount of retirement benefits individuals receive from the system.)

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