Could greed be getting a bad name in Frankfort?
A bipartisan move is afoot to undo a bit of nest-feathering that lawmakers bestowed upon themselves in the closing hours of the 2005 session.
In the 11th-hour skulduggery, lawmakers, who already had pretty cushy pensions, decreed they could count years spent in other state jobs when calculating their legislative pensions.
This enabled members of the General Assembly to hop into a full-time state job for a few years — in the administration, the judiciary or a statewide office — and qualify for annual pensions well in excess of $100,000.
USA Today recently highlighted Kentucky as an example of states where lawmakers are inflating their pensions through such provisions and loopholes.
What makes it even more galling is that lawmakers sweetened their pensions after underfunding public employees' pensions for years.
Not only does the unfunded liability in the retirement systems for state employees and teachers amount to $26 billion, the pension funds also have been returning less than expected on investments, which has the effect of further swelling the unfunded liability.
It's hardly surprising, given the lackluster performance of the stock market over the last decade, that the pension funds are underperforming. And there's little reason to think they'll return to consistently earning a 7.5 percent return anytime soon.
The issue of lawmaker pensions came up as a sidelight to an interim committee meeting at which legislators received a report about the underperformance of the pension funds.
The Courier-Journal's Mike Winn reports that Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, said he will sponsor legislation revoking, effective 2014, the provision allowing lawmakers to factor into their legislative pensions much higher salaries from full-time state jobs.
Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton, chairman of the House state government committee, said he also supports repealing the provision.
The rest of the legislature should join them in undoing this greedy bit of self-serving legislation. It would demonstrate good faith while lawmakers continue to work to put state finances and state retirement plans on sounder footing.