Senate bills aimed at trimming public pension perks advance in the House

jcheves@herald-leader.comMarch 6, 2014 

FRANKFORT — A legislative panel sent to the House floor Thursday two Senate bills aimed at trimming public pension perks.

The House State Government Committee approved Senate Bill 4, which would let lawmakers opt out of a pension law that can dramatically increase their legislative retirement benefits if they work for a few years in the state's executive or judicial branches.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, said "the super-sizing of legislative pensions" looks bad and could cost the retirement system millions of additional dollars over time.

"This is about leading from the front in tough times," McDaniel said. "This is about a matter of trust."

The state's pension systems are exempt from the Kentucky Open Records Act, so the public won't know for certain which lawmakers choose to opt out, McDaniel said. But the question is likely to be asked by voters during legislative election campaigns, he said.

Also Thursday, the House committee approved Senate Bill 142, another attempt to end pension "spiking" by public employees. When employees spike their pensions, they use unusually large raises, overtime, compensation pay or other means to inflate their salaries shortly before they retire, boosting their lifetime pensions.

The legislature tried to address the problem in 2013 with a law that shifted the cost of spiked pensions — generally, anything greater than a 10 percent salary hike during the last five years of employment — to the agency that employed the retiree. That brought complaints from those agencies, including local governments and police and fire departments.

SB 142 would try again, this time by prohibiting payment of the spiked amount of a pension, said McDaniel, also the sponsor of that bill. It would apply to wages earned after July 1, he said.

John Cheves: (859) 231-3266. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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