Tom Eblen

Who’s ‘ignorant’ and ‘uninformed’? Bevin should do more homework before ranting on radio.

Matt Bevin: ‘I’m still gonna save the pension whether they like it or not’

Governor Matt Bevin responds to a question at the end of the America First Policy event in Versailles regarding the potential for Kentucky teachers to go on strike in response to the Senate State and Local Government Committee's approval of a plan
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Governor Matt Bevin responds to a question at the end of the America First Policy event in Versailles regarding the potential for Kentucky teachers to go on strike in response to the Senate State and Local Government Committee's approval of a plan

Just when you thought Gov. Matt Bevin couldn’t stick his foot further into his mouth, he goes on the radio and lets loose a new blizzard of insults and nonsense.

Appearing Tuesday on WVLC radio in Campbellsville, Bevin went off on Kentucky teachers angry that he and Republican lawmakers want to cut billions from their retirement benefits.

Bevin called teachers “remarkably selfish and short-sighted” and claimed they were “throwing a temper tantrum.”

“I’m just flabbergasted by how remarkably uninformed folks are,” Bevin said. “They’re highly educated but very uninformed.”

Rather than attacking teachers, Bevin should look in a mirror. His 10-minute diatribe was arrogant, condescending and remarkably uninformed.

One big complaint from teachers is that Republicans want to cut their pension cost-of-living increases, which would cost the average retiree more than $65,000 over time, according to an analysis by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

“Teachers are the only people in Kentucky who get pay raises after they retire,” Bevin said. “They get a pay raise every year for the rest of their lives, even after they’re no longer teaching.”

He went on and on about this. It was as if he didn’t know that Kentucky teachers, unlike most state workers, do not get Social Security benefits, which include annual cost-of-living increases.

“It’s just bizarre to me,” Bevin said.

Maybe it wouldn’t seem so bizarre if he understood how the system works.

Bevin then said the average Kentucky teacher is paid more than teachers in Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Missouri and Indiana. That’s not the issue, but at least Bevin got four out of five correct, which in most schools would earn him a “C”.

The average Virginia teacher earns much more ($64,285) than the average Kentucky teacher ($52,216), according to a USA Today report last August. Kentucky teacher pay ranked 30th in the nation, which isn’t something to brag about. Bevin also didn’t mention that West Virginia teachers recently went on strike for higher pay.

Bevin took a break from bashing teachers to criticize his fellow Republicans in the General Assembly, who seem to be backing off their pension reform plan in the face of opposition from teachers, state employees, retirees and their supporters.

“The fact that our legislators are, in some cases, not willing to make the hard decisions to save people from their own misinformed opinions is crazy,” Bevin said, adding that maybe those legislators “should find a different profession.”

GOP legislative leaders called Bevin’s comments “inappropriate.”

Teachers and public workers gathered at the Capitol Monday to rally against SB 1, the controversial pension bill.

“We were sent here to do this,” Bevin said, noting that he campaigned in 2015 on shoring up the state’s under-funded pension system. But he forgot this quote from his campaign: “Let me be clear that this will not in any way affect the benefits of current teachers or retirees.”

Bevin went on and on in his radio talk — it wasn’t really an interview because the host asked no real questions — bragging that he “is the only governor in the lifetime of these people that has fully funded the plan.” Actually, governors and legislators fully funded the pension system until about 15 years ago.

The strangest of Bevin’s comments were when he likened teachers to people who might have protested against rationing during World War II to “help our troops and save our nation.”

Bizarre as it was, the comment was revealing. In Bevin’s mind, the only solution is cutting workers’ and retirees’ benefits. The governor can’t seem to fathom that he and legislators could raise revenue to fund the pensions teachers were promised.

Failure to reform Kentucky’s antiquated, loophole-riddled tax code is the biggest reason public employee pensions have been under-funded, education has been slashed and Kentucky is falling behind in serving its people and investing for the future.

“If a person is uninformed about a topic, they’re not even able to make their own case for what they believe in,” Bevin said. “There’s an old saying that you can’t win an argument with an ignorant person.”

That’s one reason teachers are so frustrated with you, governor. Do some homework before your next radio appearance.

Teachers and staff at Julius Marks Elementary School held a walk-in in front of the school Thursday morning, chanting and holding signs against proposed pension legislation.

Tom Eblen: 859-231-1415, @tomeblen