Gov. Matt Bevin took to Facebook Saturday night, urging citizens to contact their legislators and ask them to address the ailing pension system for state workers.
Bevin said in a four-minute Facebook video that the teachers’ retirement system will likely run out of money in 12 to 15 years unless structural changes are made.
“Reach out to your legislators and say don’t allow this to fail on our watch. Don’t kick this down the road one more year. It’s unacceptable,” Bevin said. “We do need to fully fund it but we also have to make sure that we’re not throwing money into a bottomless pit. Structural change must happen.”
Senate Bill 1 would end traditional pensions for future teachers and cut retired teachers’ cost-of-living allowances, among other cost-saving changes.
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Senate leadership has said it will be difficult to pass such a bill before the legislative session ends April 13.
“It has a very limited and difficult path forward at this point in time,” Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said Wednesday.
Bevin pointed out that he has fully funded the system, which had gone years without full funding.
But he said continuing to put more and more money in without structural change would be “like putting water into a bucket with a hole in the bottom of it. ...We have to patch the bottom of the bucket in this case before we fill it up.”
The video statement came just days after Bevin’s comments in a radio interview drew outrage from teachers.
On Tuesday while speaking to a Campbellsville radio station, Bevin said teachers who oppose Senate Bill 1 were “selfish” and “ignorant,” and he compared them to disloyal Americans who hoarded rationed goods during World War II.
“This would be like people having mass demonstrations about, ‘No I want my butter, I want my sugar, I’m going to keep all my steel and my rubber and my copper, and to heck with the rest of you people, you better keep giving me mine,’” Bevin said. “...It’s just straight up about wanting more than your fair share.”
Teachers responded Thursday, speaking out against the governor’s characterization at “walk-in” rallies in protest of SB 1.
Bevin said in the video Saturday that he has “tremendous respect for those of you who are teaching.”
He said several family members have worked as teachers, including his grandmother, a public school teacher who lived off a retirement pension until she was 94 years old.
“If her checks had stopped coming, I don’t know what she would’ve done,” he said. “The reality will be the same for many of you. We’ve got to structurally save this system.”
People quickly responded on Facebook. While some expressed support, many said they were still angry and disappointed about his previous remarks.
“This is beyond ridiculous! Getting it right would be fulfilling the contract that was set when we began teaching,” Andrea Boggs wrote in a comment on the video. “I didn’t go into teaching for the money, summers or sick days. I went into teaching to help shape and touch the lives of our youth. So unfortunate that we have to take the belittling from someone who is against public education. We won’t back down!”