GOP lawmakers say court ruling puts Kentucky's pensions in danger
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Republican lawmakers warn a court ruling blocking the reform bill they passed earlier this year could put public employee retirements at risk.
The pension systems are more than $40 billion in the hole, and Republicans at the Capitol say the ruling places the pension systems again in danger.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd threw out the pension bill because of the way lawmakers passed it - changing what had been a sewage bill, and passing it in just a few hours.
Senator Chris McDaniel, a Republican from Taylor Mill, called Shepherd’s decision “patently incorrect.” He said if the ruling stands and the pension changes do not go into effect, future public employee retirements are in danger.
“The fact is that Kentucky’s pension systems will remain in a perilous position both for the pensioners and the taxpayers,” McDaniel told WDRB. “So something will have to be done.”
But in an interview, Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said it is unlikely that lawmakers will want to take up pension reform again.
Rep. Jerry Miller, who co-chairs the Public Pension Oversight Board hopes Thayer is wrong.
“The need is there. It will be up to us to muster the will,” Miller said.
The head of the Kentucky Education Association is dismissing the gloom and doom. Stephanie Winkler believes the pension systems will be fine as long as lawmakers continue to fully fund them.
“I would like to have the chance to see what full funding does before we do drastic cuts to people who were promised one thing, and then have people want to take that away,” Winkler said.
But McDaniel, who is the Senate budget chairman, said without reforms, there is no guarantee the state will have the money the pension systems will need.
“Our dollars are finite, and we have to balance a budget. So, consequently, the opponents of this just ignore the reality of the budgetary situation in Kentucky,” McDaniel said.
Gov. Matt Bevin’s office said an appeal of Shepherd's ruling is “imminent.” The Kentucky Supreme Court is expected to ultimately decide the case.
McDaniel said he is confident Shepherd’s ruling will be overturned.
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