State house Republican Leader Jeff Hoover said Monday that House GOP members will boycott a meeting Tuesday called by Speaker Greg Stumbo for all 100 House members to hear information on state pensions and Medicaid.
Hoover, R-Jamestown, said in a news release that the 11 a.m. meeting in the House chamber is “a transparent attempt to force taxpayers to pay for Democratic House members to attend a caucus fundraiser Tuesday night.”
The cost of the meeting to taxpayers would be more than $30,000, Hoover said. Members are to be paid expenses and their $188.22 daily salary to attend the meeting.
“Greg Stumbo is attempting to use his past refusal to deal with problems with our pensions and Medicaid systems to trick Kentucky taxpayers into paying for his members to attend a caucus fundraiser,” Hoover said. “I think it’s disgusting, disingenuous and I will not be part of his charade.”
Brian Wilkerson, a spokesman for Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the informational meeting was called in light of a recent report on the pension funds and Gov. Matt Bevin’s release last week of changes in a Medicaid waiver proposal to the federal government.
He said it was not an effort to attract Democratic lawmakers to Frankfort for a fundraiser. House Democrats are scheduled to meet privately at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Kentucky Democratic Party headquarters to talk about fall House races.
The Herald-Leader reported last week that the struggling funds for state and local government employees and school teachers lost money on investments in fiscal year 2016 despite paying a combined $171 million in fees to financial advisers. Meanwhile, the pension fund for state lawmakers saw a gain of 3.45 percent.
Stumbo, in an email, said Hoover’s statement “only adds suspicion in that many of these agents and brokers who ripped off the retirement systems during this Bevin administration are Republican donors, and he may not want anyone to know that.”
“However, paying more than $170 million for advice that led to these negative returns needs to be investigated,” Stumbo said.
In a letter to Stumbo that was released to the media, Hoover also said that the Tuesday gathering serves no legitimate function because neither the state Senate nor the governor’s office were invited to attend.
“If you were committed to solving the public pension crisis in Kentucky, why would you not include the governor and the Senate in meetings?” Hoover asked. “I trust you recognize no action can be taken without discussion and collaboration with the governor and the Senate.”
Hoover said the pensions and Medicaid are “important issues,” but “I don’t think spending more than $30,000 in taxpayer dollars to bring members to Frankfort for a meeting that we know going in will accomplish nothing is a good use of taxpayers funds.”