The Herald-Leader will fact-check claims made by the candidates and their surrogates leading up to the Nov. 8 election
The statement: "For 26 years in Frankfort, David Williams has spent millions in taxpayer dollars on office renovations and perks for himself ... and repeatedly voted to increase his own taxpayer-funded pension, now worth over $1 million, while trying to cut the pensions of other state workers."
— Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear in a television ad this week attacking David Williams, his Republican challenger.
The ruling: Half true.
The facts: David Williams, the state Senate president, oversaw an expansion of legislative offices at the Capitol Annex in Frankfort over the past decade. Williams and other legislative leaders approved $1.7 million in 2003 to acquire additional space and $639,000 in 2006 for further improvements to Senate offices, including Williams', such as new woodwork, furniture and electronics.
So it's true that millions of dollars were spent on office renovations. But the ad implies this spending was entirely "for himself," which is misleading. Other legislators, including Democrats, also benefitted from the spending.
Regarding the value of his state pension, Williams is entitled to about $44,000 a year if he retired today, according to facts provided by the Kentucky Judicial Form Retirement System, which handles legislators' pensions. The Beshear campaign said it reached the $1 million figure cumulatively by assuming that Williams, who is 58, retired today and lived to the age of 78, the average American life expectancy.
That projection is accurate, but it’s uncertain that he will collect $1 million. Williams denies that he plans to retire from public office in the near future, regardless of whether he wins the governor’s race, and nobody knows how long he will live.
It's stretching the truth to say Williams "tried to cut the pensions of other state workers."
Last winter, Williams unsuccessfully pushed a bill to place future state workers in private retirement accounts, like a 401(k), putting the responsibility on them to save enough money. The bill would not have affected current state workers.
401(k) accounts typically depend on stock market results and offer less secure returns than defined-benefits pensions, which is what state workers now enjoy. In that sense, Williams' plan might produce reduced retirement income for future state workers.