Kentucky lawmakers still have “a lot of work to do” on Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposal to overhaul the state’s ailing public pension systems, House Speaker Jeff Hoover said Tuesday after meeting for nearly two hours behind closed doors with his Republican colleagues in the state House.
“It’s clear we got a lot of work to do to move forward on this issue,” said Hoover, R-Jamestown.
He said no vote was taken on the bill during the GOP caucus meeting and that he does not know if a special legislative session to approve pension legislation is likely to be held in the next two weeks.
“That’s up to the governor,” he said, adding that “we are committed to continuing working every single day to have a solution that provides a long-term foundation for our pension systems that will allow them to be sustainable and solvent in the years to come.”
Hoover said he expects changes to be made to the bill, but he declined to identify them.
Hoover said concerns expressed by some members at the caucus ranged from requiring school teachers and government employees to pay an additional 3 percent of their salaries into their retiree health insurance funds to teachers’ sick days.
Bevin, also a Republican, has repeatedly promised to call a special session this year on public pensions but he has not yet announced a specific date. A special session would take at least five days and cost taxpayers about $65,000 a day.
There appears to be support for the bill, which was released to lawmakers on Friday, in the GOP-led Senate, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 27-11. But in the House, where the GOP holds a 64-36 majority, at least three Republicans already have said they cannot support the proposed bill.
Opponents of the bill are holding a rally at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Capitol.
The Kentucky Education Action Team — made up of the Kentucky Education Association, Kentucky Association of School Administrators, Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, Kentucky Association of School Councils, Kentucky Parent Teacher Association, Kentucky Retired Teachers’ Association and Kentucky School Boards Association — released a statement Tuesday in opposition.
The group, which represents more than 130,000 public education employees and retirees, also urged its members to be at the Capitol at least one day during any special session to protest the bill.
Hoover was asked how many times the word “sophisticated” came up in Tuesday’s GOP meeting. He said “a few.”
On Monday, Bevin said opponents of the public pension plan lacked “the sophistication to understand what’s at stake.” Bevin has argued that changes in the public pension system are necessary to keep it solvent.
“We want to get this right,” said House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster. “We don’t want to rush something but we want to get it right. While we are trying to work on solutions, we are not giving rhetoric to people. We are not calling people names. We’re not doing those things. We’re actually trying to address this the right way.”
The system officially has unfunded liabilities of about $40 billion, but Bevin has said the total is actually greater than $64 billion.
House Republicans are scheduled to meet again Friday to discuss the bill.