Kentucky lawmakers make changes to pension plan but fail to sati - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky lawmakers make changes to pension plan but fail to satisfy critics

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky lawmakers have made changes to the pension plan unveiled at the Capitol last week, but they are not enough to satisfy angry public school teachers.

Teachers packed the committee hearing room and spilled into the hallways. Among those in the crowd was Sherry Mann, who is frustrated and furious the pension reform plan, also known as SB1. 

"First, they wronged us by not contributing what they were supposed to contribute," Mann said. "And now they say, 'OK, we'll fix it. We'll just take it from you again.' And that's not acceptable."

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Joe Bowen tried to assure the skeptical crowd that lawmakers are listening to their concerns.

"I want you to know that we've compromised a lot with this legislation," Bowen said.

In fact, there have been changes to the bill that reduce some of the cuts to retirement benefits.

But those changes failed to satisfy.

"This bill unfairly and illegally takes away many thousands of dollars from each of us," said Janet Sogar, a retired teacher.

And the bill still puts new employees on what’s called a "hybrid cash balance" retirement plan instead of a traditional pension. Critics of that plan say it will result in fewer good teachers coming into the classroom.

"It's small model that, when read carefully, has details that will result in a really bad ending," said Stephanie Winkler with the Kentucky Education Association.

But Bowen said the real bad ending will come if lawmakers fail to make changes to the retirement systems, which are at least $40 billion in the red.

"These systems will continue to languish, and some will fail," he said.

Hanging over all this is the opinion issued Wednesday by Attorney General Andy Beshear that the bill violates the state constitution.

The head of the Jefferson County Teacher Association agrees.

"If you build a solution on something that is going to be invalidated, you don't really have a solution," Brent McKim said.

Because of the late changes, there was no committee vote on the bill on Wednesday. There's no word yet on when that vote could come.

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