Teachers say Bevin's pension reform plan cuts benefits and impacts retirement
Gov. Matt Bevin said the changes keep promises to state workers.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Gov. Matt Bevin said his pension plan will prevent the ailing system from going bankrupt, but some teachers fear the pension rescue is coming at their expense, questioning Bevin's promise that his plan will have little impact on their retirement.
Joe Gutmann, a former attorney and prosecutor who now teaches law at Central High School, has studied the pension reform plan and has come to a verdict.
“There are aspects of the pension proposal that will affect my financial well-being in my true senior years," Gutmann said. "And that concerns me."
Among the concerns are after teachers leave the classroom, they would not receive a cost of living adjustment, or COLA, for the first five years of their retirement. And teachers already retired would have their COLA's frozen for five years.
JCTA President Brent McKim said that amounts to a cut in benefits.
“That will harm every teacher who is either going to retire or even those already retired,” McKim said. “It's a 7.5 percent cut to their benefits at a time when they probably need them the most.”
McKim said the proposed changes violate the so-called inviolable contract, the guarantee that workers will receive the benefits promised when they are hired.
“It probably will be voided by the courts, eventually, but it causes a lot of anxiety,” McKim said.
When Bevin unveiled the plan on Wednesday, he said the pension system is $60 billion in the red, and structural changes must be made to keep it collapsing. Bevin said his plan does not break the state's promise to its workers.
“A lot of questions will be asked, 'What about the inviolable contract?'" he said. "Every single thing you will see in this bill is within keeping of the contracts that have been made. It fulfills the promise that has been made."
McKim said he is also concerned that placing all new teachers in a 401(k) style plan, as the proposal recommends, will make it tougher for the state to attract good teachers.
“Ultimately, if we can't attract and keep good teachers, it adversely affects kids," McKim said. "It affects public education."
On the contrary, Bevin said the changes will appeal to younger workers.
“Most people don't like the idea of being obligated: 'I've got to go somewhere and be there for 27 years,'" Bevin said. "People like the idea of flexibility and portability."
Gutmann offered some advice for his fellow teachers.
“Study it carefully, just like we tell our students,” he said
Lawmakers will undoubtedly hear from those on both sides of the debate as the expected special session approaches. Bevin said he will call the session after the final bill is completed.
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