GOP lawmakers aren't surprised by consultant report that tax ref - WDRB 41 Louisville News

GOP lawmakers aren't surprised by consultant report that tax reform plan would cost taxpayers more over 20 years

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A new analysis of Gov. Matt Bevin's pension reform bill shows the proposed changes will not save taxpayer dollars in the short term, but it will actually cost more.

In the first official cost analysis of the proposal, the consulting firm Cavanaugh McDonald said the plan would cost taxpayers an extra $4.4 billion over the next 20 years.

“We knew were going to have to spend more money, so this is not a surprise,” said Senate Pres. Robert Stivers (R-Manchester).

Stivers said the pension system is more than $30 billion in the red, and that means the state must spend more to stop the bleeding.

“We're trying to get rid of the unfunded liability," he said. "So to get rid of the unfunded liability, we're going to have to spend more money. That's just the reality."

Republican Rep. Jerry Miller of Louisville, who is the new chairman of the Public Pension Oversight Board, said the savings to taxpayers will come beyond 20, even 30 years down the road.

“We have to pay this off so that we save money in the future,” Miller said.

But Democratic Rep. Joni Jenkins of Shively said the new report is further proof that lawmakers need to consider new sources of revenue as part of the plan to fix pensions.

“We needs to be looking at things like expanded gaming and other ways to bring more revenue into the state,” Jenkins said.

GOP leaders said that is not going to happen, but there seems to be a growing consensus among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle that all the new complications, including the sexual harassment scandal that toppled former House Speaker Jeff Hoover, make a special session on pensions increasingly less likely.

Miller said pension reform absolutely must happen, whether in a special session or during the 2018 regular session.

“We have to reform pensions, whether it's done first week in December or the second week in January," he said. "I'm not sure it makes a whole lot of difference."

Further complicating matters, the consultant’s report said under Bevin’s plan, the deficit in the teacher’s retirement system would actually grow over 20 years, not shrink.

If Bevin’s proposal is approved, the deficit is projected to be $11 billion by 2038, which is 71 percent funded. If lawmakers do not pass the bill and fully fund the system every year, the deficit is projected to be $9.6 billion by 2038, meaning the system would be 80 percent funded.

Bevin’s office released the following statement on the consultant’s report:

“The State Budget Director’s office is still evaluating the report provided by the Teachers Retirement System’s actuary. What we do know clearly shows the plan will accomplish significantly better funding levels over a long period of time. Additionally, the state will be able to afford additional payments over the next 30 years, thereby saving the teachers' pensions. Governor Bevin put a record amount of money into the current budget for teachers' pensions and we have always said we will need to allocate more money towards all the plans.”

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