Politics & Government

Buckle up! Kentucky lawmakers to tackle pension bill and state budget Wednesday

A general view of the Capitol during the General Assembly at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., on Wednesday, January 31, 2018.
A general view of the Capitol during the General Assembly at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., on Wednesday, January 31, 2018.

Kentucky lawmakers are poised to take their first votes Wednesday on the two most prominent bills of this year’s legislative session: the two-year state budget and a pension overhaul plan.

At noon, the Senate State and Local Government committee will hear Senate Bill 1, a controversial plan to stabilize the state’s ailing pension systems for public workers.

Republican legislative leaders have said the bill would eventually eliminate Kentucky’s unfunded pension liabilities, which top more than $40 billion, largely by cutting retirement benefits for teachers and shifting some of the costs to local governments.

The Kentucky Retired Teachers Association and other advocacy groups have called for their members to rally Wednesday in opposition to the bill.

House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne, R-Prospect, said he doesn’t expect teacher’s opposition to generate major changes in the bill.

“I don’t think they will be dramatic, no,” Osborne said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, announced that the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, which he chairs, plans to consider the House’s version of the state budget and associated revenue-generating bills Wednesday in a special committee meeting that will start after the full House adjourns sometime late in the afternoon.

In January, Governor Matt Bevin released a budget proposal that would eliminate 70 government programs and cut spending at many state agencies by 6.25 percent. The bill also would cut state funding for transportation to K-12 schools and directed school districts to cut their administrative expenses. It also would cut a $145 million state subsidy of health insurance costs for 8,554 retired teachers who aren’t yet old enough to qualify for Medicare.

The budget bill must start in the House of Representatives, per the Kentucky Constitution, and the House can change the governor’s budget proposal to their liking.

Rudy refused to release any details about what the House bill would contain, but said both the budget and a revenue bill to accompany it will be passed by the House committee tomorrow.

“We will pass the budget, all three branches’ budgets, tomorrow,” Rudy said.

This is the first time in recent history that a state budget will be crafted entirely by Republicans, who took control of the Kentucky House last year for the first time in nearly a century.

Osborne said he expects the bills to be heard on the House floor Thursday. He also declined to offer any details about what the bills would contain.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers offered reporters Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, some information about a major public pension bill expected to be unveiled this week.

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers talked to reporters Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, about the status of public pension reform in this year’s legislative session.