Thanks to Beshear, lawmakers for keeping promise to pensioners
It has been well documented that a succession of legislators and governors has failed to make employer contributions sufficient to sustain the pension fund covering most state employees. The inevitable result is the threat of insolvency. The Kentucky Employment Retirement System's non-hazardous fund operates at a dangerously low 23 percent funding ratio. Insolvency, while only a remote possibility, would affect all taxpayers, because pension benefits are guaranteed as a matter of contract law.
Last year, the legislature and Gov. Steve Beshear adopted a bill that made sweeping changes in public pensions. Senate Bill 2 strengthened the language that requires Frankfort leaders to make the full actuarially required contribution.
In his biennial budget request early this year, Beshear provided for the full contribution, including quasi-government agencies that participate in the KERS non-hazardous fund. The legislature left untouched this portion of the budget bill during its deliberations and, ultimately, House Bill 235 passed both houses easily.
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The 3,370 members of Kentucky Government Retirees commend Beshear and the General Assembly for following through on their commitment to retirees, state employees and, ultimately, taxpayers. We hope that in a future session, they will take the next step by designating a revenue source for employer pension contributions, thus ensuring the long-term stability of the pension fund. In the meantime, to Beshear and the Kentucky General Assembly members who voted "yes" to H.B. 235, thank you for delivering on your promise.
Co-founder, Kentucky Government Retirees on Facebook
Ag gag bill protects evil
Even though there's no evidence he ever really said it, Kentuckians love this quote attributed to Mark Twain: "When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Kentucky because it's always 20 years behind the times." It certainly seems to be true.
In the 1970s California passed laws to make it illegal to say the word "strike" (huelga) in the fields where Mexicans were being abused. California also passed a law to make organized boycotts of agricultural products illegal.
Recently the Kentucky Senate passed a bill to penalize whistle blowers who photograph animal abuse on farms. The bill was, amazingly, supported by the Kentucky Farm Bureau, a once-respected organization.
So, except for the incorrect time lag, Twain wouldl have been right — witness the Kentucky Senate's attempts to use law to thwart the exposure of evil.
Soring horses is cruel, end it now
People who hurt animals are cruel, immoral, and are breaking the law. Soring Tennessee walking horses is all of the above. Those who oppose the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act (H.R. 1518) are trying to divert your attention from their inhumane "sport" by saying that only a small number of competitors actually sore their horses anymore.
Jim Cortner's piece in the March 16 Herald-Leader is a prime example of this. But Cortner exposes the dirty truth about his industry right in his own article. He says H.R. 1518 would lead to "actually eliminating a complete sector of equine competitors — effectively wiping out the industry."
Look at the actual words of H.R. 1518, and find out which horses would be impacted. The bill says that the first time an inspector determines a horse is sore, the horse shall be disqualified "from being shown or exhibited for a period of not less than 180 days." If a second instance occurs, the disqualification is "not less than one year," and the third time brings "not less than three years."
Cornter is afraid of wiping out the industry? That must mean that a very large number of horses — in his words "a complete sector of equine competitors" — will be eliminated.
Cortner can't have it both ways. Clearly, he is admitting that most of the horses that are examined will be eliminated from competition. Soring is common — exactly the reason the bill needs to be passed and enforced.
The faster we implement H.R. 1518, the faster we bring horses out of cruelty.
Jo Ellen Hayden
Boost economy with oral cancer
The Herald-Leader recently reported that the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority Board is giving U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. $4.5 million to produce Skoal and Copenhagen in Hopkinsville. How much will the KEDFA give to the health care industry to cover the costs of oral cancer and other health effects?
Google "smokeless tobacco effects" to learn more.
Boost Kentucky's economy, just a pinch between cheek and gum.
Pay attention to your pension
The election of Kentucky Employees Retirement System trustees has just been completed. (Disclosure: I was an unsuccessful candidate.) This is not about the outcome but, rather, the lack of participation. Some 128,000 ballots were mailed; just 13,290 (10.4 percent) responded; more than 89 percent of present and past state employees did not participate.
Until my retirement in 2010, I didn't think much about Kentucky Retirement System. Contributions were deducted, annual statements filed away. This apathy changed once I did retire and began learning more about the financials and politics of my retirement money.
I am writing this to emphatically state that state workers must get off their collective backsides and become smarter about their pensions, the administrative organization, and the "reformers."
To become more aware, like two Facebook pages: Kentucky Government Retirees and Kentucky Public Retirees. To participate, join the group specifically geared toward employee retirement issues — KPR (www.kentuckypublicretrirees.org).
The lack of engagement by KERS members stands in stark contrast to those who are organized in "reforming" the system. S.B. 2 redefined benefits and administration. What might be next? The "inviolable contract" is seen as the backstop, but is it, like any other law, subject to amendment?
If this just-concluded election illustrates a true disconnect between employees and retirees and their pensions, we all may wake up one day and find ourselves scratching our heads wondering "What happened?". To borrow the KGR's catchphrase: "Pay attention to your pension".