Teachers deserve better
If you are a teacher in Kentucky, you should know some politicians hate you. They don’t care how hard you work. They don’t value your dedication to improving the lives of your students. If the test scores go up, it’s not because of you. It was the administration or politicians who made it possible. If the test scores go down, that’s because of you. Never mind a lot of your students are too tired or too hungry to think when they get to school. Never mind some of your students’ parents don’t speak English and can’t help them. Never mind some of your students’ parents are on drugs. It’s the teacher’s fault.
And now on top of not getting paid adequately for your services, your only hope of having a decent retirement is if you marry a politician — their pension is in great shape. If you are majoring in education, change your major to something like interpretive dancing, that way only the idiotic governor will talk badly about you. If you already are a teacher, thank you for what you put up with and what you do for our children. You deserve better.
Weed will save the day
Our state pension crisis is only going to get worse. There aren’t enough millennials who are working and paying into the system to improve the situation. There is one option that I know will save the day: If the hypocritical Bible thumpers get out of the way.
Legalizing medical marijuana is the first step toward getting this state out of this embarrassing situation. Kentucky is a poor state. Nobody wants to start a new business or manufacturing facility in poor rural areas because Kentucky has the reputation of having ignorant, backward-thinking, uneducated people. Something has got to be done now.
People need to get off of their evangelical high horses and stop interfering with the legalization of medical marijuana. We’re a dirt poor state. We need to stop acting like we aren’t. We need that money badly. The profit from medical marijuana would send the pension crisis packing.
I see and hear mean and nasty things coming out of so-called religious people’s mouths all day at work, and for them to turn around and say medical marijuana should never be sold in Kentucky makes me want to scream.
Follow the right order
Do the governor and GOP legislature have reasons for putting the cart before the horse? Why are they ramming through pension reform before doing revenue-increased tax reform?
Listen to the Fayette County Education Association president: “We should not even be talking about pensions until we address tax reform. The governor should be focused on new revenue to fund the system, not distracting teachers from their priority of educating our children.”
That’s just sheer common sense, unless you regard Gov. Matt Bevin as Trump-lite and state Senate President Robert Stivers as complicit with congressionally-equivalent Sen. Mitch McConnell’s one-campaign-policy-fits-all.
Trump and Bevin use chaos, confusion, distraction and fear by tearing up taxpayer-funded government agencies and programs to install crony capitalist buddies as McConnell and Stivers try to do tax breaks for “donor maintenance” under labels of health care and tax reform.
I’m surprised that Bevin hasn’t yet told teachers to take prayer rocks into legislative-enforced school Bible study (when knowledge of world religions is so desperately needed).
Trump, Bevin, GOP’s reform and tax breaks must be stopped until voters can see if their tax returns and legislation align with business or special interests.
Citizen resistance to secretive legislation in Kentucky should be broadened to “no tax revenue plan, no reforms.”
Does the proposed pension bill violate the inviolable contract? I have no idea.
But it’s a given that, if it passes, multiple lawsuits that will take years to decide will be filed. The newly passed law will be suspended, at a minimum, until the lawsuits are settled.
Knowing this, a “yes” vote by a legislator is an intentional act of maintaining the status quo by “kicking the can down the road” under the guise of trying to do something about the pension crisis.
There are other ways to fix the pension crisis without potentially violating the inviolable contract. Revenue streams are available that can be directed to the unfunded liability. To ignore those in favor of what is proposed is merely shirking responsibility.
Understanding the problem
With regard to the pension crisis, there’s a lot of misunderstanding of what has been done to our public employees and what is being planned to “fix” the problem. Imagine if, after paying on your 30-year mortgage for 20 years, your bank called you and said, “Hey, you know those mortgage payments you’ve been making? Well, turns out we weren’t applying all of those to paying down your loan. We gave a good portion of it to our board of directors, because those guys are great job makers. Really great. The best, really. So, to make up for what should’ve been paid, we’re going to raise your mortgage payment for the remaining 10 years. Sounds fair, right? Buh bye.”
That’s pretty much what’s going on here. It’s not right. It’s not fair. And it’s the wrong thing to do. Before changing anything, the legislature needs to adequately fund the pension system through additional revenues and restricting tax exemptions.
Few treats left
The pension bill is a bag full of tricks, with only a few treats left for the governor and Wall Street hedge funds. It tries to trick the public into thinking shifting new employees into 401(k) does something to lower pension liabilities, when in fact it does not. It is a power grab by the governor and a 3 percent salary cut for every current teacher, policeman and public worker. The bill is a power grab for the governor over the legislature, but more directly over cities, counties and school districts. More control over CERS is the opposite of #FreeCERS, which Republicans claim to support. The bill will force key retirements and the governor can name or influence replacements. It attempts to nullify the Seven Counties decision in federal court by taking pensions away from retired social workers.
Its one redeeming feature, the promise of full level dollar funding, is meaningless without the revenues to fund it. I anticipate the administration will say it would have funded it, except the courts did not allow it to make benefit cuts that clearly violate the inviolable contract. How Senate and House Republicans can rubber-stamp laws that even S&P says are, at best, challengeable in court, without even seeing a legal opinion, is taking us to new level in Frankfort.
Author of “Kentucky Fried Pensions”
Stage a walkout
If Gov. Matt Bevin’s 500-plus-page pension reform bill goes through unchanged, every Kentucky teacher, school board employee, state of Kentucky employee, county employee and public employee covered by the state pension system should walk out in protest. The way I see it, this would be the only way to get the governor and our legislative representatives’ attention on this matter. I realize this would be a drastic measure but when you are faced with drastic consequences, sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.
This bill does nothing but put the burden of underfunding of the pension system on the backs of the employees who have already paid their fair share. The governor and the legislators need to pony up their share and continue working on finding another revenue stream of monies to fund the state pension system.
James Jeffrey Coleman
Keep pension promises
I am deeply concerned about the pension reform framework recently made public.
These proposals challenge the contract rights of members, lower the standard of living of employees now and in retirement and will worsen the cash-flow crisis in the state employee pension plan.
A state Supreme Court justice recently questioned the legality of freezing participation in the judicial pension system at 27 years. We share the same concern for Kentucky Retirement Systems members whose benefits are also covered by an inviolable contract. The framework imposes a new 3 percent employee contribution to help fund health insurance expenses. State workers are already underpaid and are losing ground every year. Moreover, the KRS health insurance trust funds are a fiscal bright spot with improving cash flow and dramatically increasing funding ratios.
Finally, the conversion to a 401(k)-style plan will divert contributions from new employees from KRS to Wall Street. The legacy plans will still have to pay down the existing unfunded liabilities even as they are closed.
Yes, pensions must be addressed. The legislature failed in its duty to adequately fund pensions, with an inevitable result. We look forward to a vigorous discussion of revenue sources that address pension funding without betraying the promise to workers and retirees.