House Speaker Jeff Hoover has taken the unusual step of calling all 100 House members to the Capitol Aug. 16 “to bring members up to date on the budget, tax reform and pension reform.”
Hoover, R-Jamestown, confirmed the meeting Tuesday of the House’s 64 Republicans and 36 Democrats but said the date may have to be changed until after Aug. 30.
That is when the Public Pension Oversight Board, made up of state officials and state legislators, is scheduled to receive recommendations from outside consultants on how to address the state’s public pension crisis.
“We will talk Thursday about changing the meeting date after we know for sure when those recommendations are coming out,” Hoover said. He said he expects the meeting will be open.
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It is not unusual for party caucuses to meet when the legislature is not in session, but rarely does an entire chamber meet when not in session.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has said he will call a special legislative session sometime this calendar year after Aug. 15 to address tax and pension reform. Only the governor can call a special session and set its agenda. The legislature determines how long a special session will last.
Hoover said Tuesday he has not yet heard any specific plan from the governor to deal with taxes and pensions.
Kentucky’s public pension system is among the worst in the nation. The state now has at least $40 billion in unfunded pension liabilities. The debt puts tremendous pressure on the state budget. Lawmakers will hold a regular session, starting in January, to write a new two-year state budget.
Although Republicans control the House, the Senate and the governor’s office, Bevin faces an uphill battle as he develops a tax plan to handle the state’s multimillion-dollar public pension crisis. All 100 House seats and half of the Senate’s 38 seats are up for election next year and several legislators are hesitant to consider any possible tax increases.