Thayer says he opposes pension bond but changing benefits for current workers is in play

11/15/2012 01:22 PM

Leaders on both parties are close to crafting a long-term fix to avoid “fiscal calamity” of a financially capsized state employee retirement system, said Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.

Thayer and his fellow legislative state government committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Mike Cherry of Princeton, are co-chairing the task force that will meet again Tuesday to recommend fixes to the system. The group is aiming to finalize its recommendations by Dec. 7.

Kentucky has a lot riding on whether Democrats and Republicans can craft a workable long-term solution to shoring up the state’s public employee pension system that is more than $30 billion underfunded.

“We’re very close. We’re working together very well. I think there is a very strong chance of a good bipartisan solution that the task force is going to recommend for 2013,” Thayer said Wednesday in an extended interview with Pure Politics.

As for the specifics, Thayer opposes floating a bond to raise money to immediately pay down part of the unfunded liability.

“I can tell you that I am personally not in favor of bonding to solve the KRS unfunded liability,” he said. (4:15) Instead, he said that means “very tough budget decisions” (6:00).

And he discussed the pros and cons of whether the state should risk challenging the inviolable contract for existing state employees by changing the required amount they pay into the fund. (7:20 – 9:30)

And Thayer answered questions about whether expanded gambling will come up again in 2013 and whether he and other proponents will try to sell casino gambling politically as a way to raise money to help address the underfunded pension system. (9:55)

Thayer also outlined what lawmakers need to do to better govern special taxing districts in light of Auditor Adam Edelen’s review. (0:10 – 2:50) Thayer and Republican Sen. John Schickel of Union had sponsored a bill that would require fiscal courts to sign off on special districts efforts to impose or raise taxes or fees. (2:00)

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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