Politics & Government

Bevin broke law by hiding financial analysis of pension plan, Beshear rules

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin unveils his proposed solution for Kentucky's pension systems during a press conference at the Kentucky State Capital on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 in Frankfort, Ky.
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin unveils his proposed solution for Kentucky's pension systems during a press conference at the Kentucky State Capital on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 in Frankfort, Ky.

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration violated the Kentucky Open Records Act when it refused to release an actuarial analysis showing how much the Republican governor’s proposed pension reform plan would cost, according to a ruling by Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office.

After a financial analysis of the plan’s impact on teachers’ pensions was released against Bevin’s wishes, his office refused to release in November an analysis of its impact on the pension systems for state and local government workers.

At the time, Bevin’s chief budget officer said the analysis, performed by GRS of Southfield, Mich., was still preliminary and would be used to make changes to the proposed bill behind the scenes. Since then, no replacement bill has emerged and the analysis was never released.

Beshear’s office ruled this week that the document should be released to the public because the firm had given Kentucky its final report.

“The only ‘final action’ that remains, according to the (Office of the State Budget Director), is the filing by a legislator of a pension bill in the General Assembly,” wrote James Herrick, an assistant Attorney General. “This, however, represents not the end of an executive process, but the beginning of a legislative process.”

Beshear’s office is the legal authority on open records decisions. Bevin must either release the analysis or challenge Beshear’s ruling in circuit court.

“We look forward to Governor Bevin’s prompt release of the actuarial analysis and further confirmation that his pension bill would be harmful to this state and taxpayers,” said Ellen Sueholtz, coordinator of Kentucky’s Public Pension Coalition, which filed the records request. “Unfortunately, so far this year, we’ve seen a similar lack of transparency from the governor on pension proposals.”

A spokesman for Bevin was not immediately available for comment.

Bevin’s original pension proposal was met with strong opposition by teachers and state workers, prompting Republican leaders in the House to put the idea on hold.

Citing ongoing questions about the impact of proposed changes to the state’s financially-ailing pension systems, House Republican Leadership ended the 26th day of a 60-workday legislative session Thursday without filing a pension proposal of their own.

House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne, R-Prospect, has said the bill will be different from Bevin’s proposal.

Osborne has not indicated what those changes might be, but has said the bill will not cost the state more money than Bevin set aside in his proposed two-year state budget. Kentucky’s pension systems have an unfunded liability of more than $40 billion.

Daniel Desrochers: 502-875-3793, @drdesrochers, @BGPolitics

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