FRANKFORT — State Rep. Mike Harmon, the Republican nominee in this year's race for state auditor, challenged his opponent, Democratic incumbent Adam Edelen, on Wednesday to conduct a full audit of the financially strapped Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System.
"It is high time that Kentuckians discover who is wasting their tax dollars and how that money is being spent," said Harmon, of Danville. "Every day Adam Edelen kicks the can down the road is another day our vulnerable retired teachers remain at risk. We need to act as soon as possible, and as your next Kentucky state auditor, I will take action."
The two face off in the Nov. 3 general election.
Edelen said Harmon "ought to do his homework" and read the audit his office did last year of KTRS.
"The nine-month review completed last winter was the first ever such audit into KTRS by the auditor's office," Edelen said. "It revealed that the most significant contributor to the system's woes is a consistent lack of funding by the legislature, where Mike Harmon has served for more than a decade."
"My opponent is trying to detract from the real issue," Edelen said. "While teachers were doing their jobs, Mike Harmon wasn't doing his."
Jesse Benton, Harmon's campaign manager, said Edelen "merely performed a basic surface audit to make sure top-line numbers added up.
"Kentuckians still don't know who is controlling our tax dollars, how much they are being paid or how much has been wasted."
Harmon said the role of placement agents — well-connected middlemen who help sell investment services to pension funds — in the teachers' retirement system must be carefully studied.
But Will Carle, Edelen's campaign manager, said it's well documented that KTRS doesn't and hasn't used placement agents.
Earlier this year, KTRS reported $21.6 billion in unfunded liabilities. That means it is projected to have only 45.6 percent of the funding needed to pay all future beneficiaries.
In the previous fiscal year, KTRS calculated its unfunded liabilities at $13.9 billion and its funded status at about 52 percent.
State legislators this year considered issuing $3.3 billion in bonds to boost the system but the proposal did not pass.
Harmon also has launched a website called NoActionAdam.com to criticize Edelen's performance as auditor.
Carle dismissed the website as "eighth-grade snark."
"We have big problems; we need serious leaders, and this is the type of eighth-grade snark that Matt Bevin warned his own Republican party about," Carle said.
Bevin won last month's Republican primary election for governor against three other candidates.