‘Show Me the Money’

Friday, February 8th, 2013

When it comes to public pension reform some shout: ‘Show me the Money’

The second in command of the Kentucky State Senate says his pension reform measure has two goals: save the pension benefits for the more than 325-thousand current workers and retirees, and protect taxpayers from a fiscal calamity.

That’s how Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer framed his intentions on Senate Bill 2 before the full state Senate Thursday afternoon. The Georgetown Republican said cities and counties are also suffering the burden of burgeoning pension costs, like the state, and declared that action is needed to keep Kentucky communities from going broke like the nearly 100 across the country because of pension obligations.

Kentucky faces a $33 billion unfunded liability in the state pension system, and the bill does not include a way to pay off the hefty amount. Thayer says the bipartisan approach to the pension problem defies partisan politics and boils down to arithmetic.

Senate Bill 2 would not affect the Kentucky Teacher’s Retirement System, nor does it change the benefits for current workers and retirees. Senate Minority Floor leader RJ Palmer of Winchester said lawmakers are asking future hires to embrace a new retirement structure that awards a less-rich benefits plan. He said the new system calls for important concessions by front-line social workers, first responders and even school cooks and bus drivers, who are not covered by KTRS. He says a plan is desperately needed to fully fund the pension system in order to hasten the state’s return to financial stability, which is not a part of Senate Bill 2. Yet, he did say the bill is a good first step.

Madisonville Democrat Jerry Rhoads says the plan could make it more difficult to recruit qualified folks to the state workforce and laments that the hard part of pension reform is yet to come.

When Republican Senator Tom Buford of Nicholasville announced his verdict, his reason for casting a ‘no’ vote harkened to a quip from a Hollywood flick favorite “Jerry McGuire” with ‘show me the money.’

Carter County Democrat Robin Webb agreed with Republican Tom Buford’s objections. She believes that action now to repeal the cost of living adjustments will never be reinstated and cast a ‘no’ vote.

Senator Webb’s ‘no’ vote was among the five dissensions. Senate Bill 2 advanced from the Senate on a vote of 33 to 5 and now heads to the House. You can see more of the debate online at ket.org/legislature and watch my nightly “Legislative Update” report broadcast at 11pm ET on KET.

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