Gov. Bevin says pension relief bill is ready
A Republican House leader said Friday that it appears Gov. Matt Bevin is close to having enough votes to push his pension-relief bill through the House in a special session, but the issue is complicated by finding time to hold the session when most lawmakers can attend.
House Majority Floor Leader John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville, said it’s possible that a special session will not be held until the first week or two of July.
“If you got the votes and the vote is close, you certainly want to be sure they are able to attend a special session,” said Carney in a phone interview. “Various summer events like vacations and other commitments are complicating the scheduling of a session.”
He noted that Bevin and legislators have been working to hold the special session before the state’s new fiscal year begins July 1, “but we may have to hold it in early July and adjust the legislation for that.
“Of course, having it sooner, the better.”
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, agreed with Carney. “There are a lot of logistical problems with having the special session in June but we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Only the governor can call a special legislative session and set its agenda. Lawmakers determine how long a special session lasts.
Bevin’s plan would replace a bill the Republican governor vetoed in April after the GOP-led legislature had ended in regular session.
At issue is financial relief for regional universities and quasi-governmental agencies such as county health departments, rape crisis centers and libraries that face surging pension costs, beginning July 1.
Concern has been expressed that no legislative action would lead to some bankruptcies, elimination of staff and loss of critical services.
Bevin’s plan gives the agencies options: stay with the Kentucky Retirement Systems at full cost; leave the retirement system by paying a lump sum equal to future projected benefits payments; or buy their way out in installment payments over 30 years. It continues a freeze on pension costs for another year.
House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, said earlier this month that some legislators want to make sure that employees of the affected groups keep the option to retain their current benefits if they have been in the state plan since 2013.
Carney said Friday that the governor “probably has a couple more votes than he had a week ago. There may be enough for passage.”
It would take at least five working days to get a bill through both the House and Senate and a special session preferably would start on a Monday, Carney said. The Legislative Research Commission has put the price tag of a special session at $66,434 a day.
“We have had very constructive dialogue with members of the majority party in the House and Senate and are pleased with the positive momentum on this front,” Bryan Sunderland, Bevin’s deputy chief of staff, said Friday night. “There is consensus that we need to offer real solutions, rather than continuing the history of underfunding that has put Kentucky in this situation.”
“I’m optimistic that a special session will be held soon and this issue will be resolved,” said Carney.