Legislature must protect retirees’ pensions

Allison Ball
Allison Ball

One of the most important responsibilities of the state treasurer is to be a watchdog for money earned by Kentuckians. That includes protecting Kentucky retirees’ pensions. I was proud to support Senate Bill 3 that passed the General Assembly and was signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin earlier this year.

That bill shines a light on legislators’ pensions by allowing the people of Kentucky to see how their tax dollars are being paid to retired legislators. This is critical information; Kentucky has one of the worst overall pension liabilities in the country.

Based on a report from Standard & Poor’s last fall, Kentucky is one of the lowest ranked states in the country on funding ratios for public pensions. This is due to a number of lingering issues including structural imbalances, inaccurate assumptions, lack of fully funding the actuarially required contributions, lower rates of return from investments and previous administrations ignoring the problem.

These factors make it increasingly important that the organizations that oversee our pension systems manage their financial resources properly.

In July of last year, I filed a lawsuit seeking to protect Kentucky retirees’ pensions. When I moved to intervene in the lawsuit, I specifically targeted restricting a former Kentucky Retirement Systems board member from using over $50,000 in pension dollars to pay his own legal fees.

I took action because I believed the payments were contrary to law and that it was imperative to take steps to protect both retirees and their retirement funds.

That is why I support Senate Bill 2. This bill would provide retirees with new protections by specifically setting a cap on the hourly rate paid to outside attorneys representing Kentucky Retirement Systems trustees, officers or employees, ensuring those attorneys are paid using the same rates as other government agencies that utilize outside legal representation.

Hard-earned pension dollars are important to the future of Kentucky employees. This bill will help to ensure pension funds are better protected. It is the obligation of all state agencies, including the Kentucky Retirement Systems, to be fiscally responsible and protect taxpayer dollars.

As the lead fiscal watchdog, my office regularly monitors legislation that further protects Kentucky taxpayers. SB 2 does that. It provides an additional layer of protection to retirees by preventing the retirement systems from paying excess fees to outside lawyers. This bill creates a safeguard against wasteful spending.

I urge the General Assembly to pass SB 2 and protect Kentucky retirees’ pensions.

Allison Ball is the 38th Kentucky state treasurer.