It was fitting that Republicans rammed their newest secret pension plan through the General Assembly in a matter of hours Thursday as an amendment to a bill about sewer system regulations. The whole process stank.
This overhaul of Kentucky’s public employee pension systems was sent to Gov. Matt Bevin for his likely signature with no legally required actuarial analysis, no fiscal statement, no Senate committee hearing, no input from the people most affected and no public discussion.
Few lawmakers had read the 291-page bill they voted on while angry teachers protested outside their chamber doors. No member of the public had seen it.
No wonder every Democrat and several Republicans voted against this travesty. No wonder lawmakers needed police escorts out of the Capitol last night.
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No wonder more than 20 school systems, including Fayette and Jefferson counties, were forced to close Friday because disgusted teachers called in sick. The disrespectful way Republican politicians have treated Kentucky’s over-worked, under-paid public school educators makes me sick, so I can only imagine how they feel.
This is one more sign that America is becoming an oligarchy, funded by wealthy business interests and dutifully administered by the Republican Party using any means necessary.
Just wait for the teacher protests in Frankfort next week, when many school systems are on spring break. Then will come the court challenges to this bill and the dishonest process used to enact it. Then the consequences — intended and unintended — will begin to emerge as people actually read and study the bill. Then smart young people who might have become teachers will choose different professions where they will be fairly compensated — and respected.
Republican leaders and Bevin will claim this legislation was vital to “saving” a pension system that needed funding more than change. They will claim this is so much better for teachers and employees than the previous plans they developed in secret to take away benefits and make workers’ retirement less secure.
And they will get plenty of PR support from business organizations and groups like Americans for Prosperity and the Pegasus Institute, which are funded by the same shadowy wealth that controls the Republican Party. That’s because GOP pension reform has never been about protecting workers’ pensions, or even saving taxpayers money. It is part of a national right-wing movement to sabotage and outsource government, weaken the middle class, abandon the poor and replace public education with for-profit schools.
Here is the big question every Kentucky taxpayer and voter should ask: If this bill was so great, why wasn’t it discussed, if not developed, in the open? Why weren’t the people most affected involved in the process? Why, despite solid GOP majorities in the General Assembly, did it have to be rushed through by trickery and deceit?
The answer is simple: Like many things the Republican majority is ramming through the legislature this year — from a utility-backed bill to destroy solar entrepreneurs to a budget that shortchanges the needs of average citizens — this pension bill is bad for Kentucky. It could not withstand fact-based analysis and honest debate. It could not survive in the light of day.
One-party government is never a good idea, and the new Republican majority is proving that every day. Any legislator that voted for this scam, and especially the party leaders who engineered it, should be tossed out of office in November or the next time they stand for re-election. They have proven they cannot be trusted.