LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The sponsor of a pair of pension reform bills announced Tuesday that they will likely be amended to largely mirror the final versions of similar legislation passed earlier this year.
Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville, said Gov. Matt Bevin’s office withdrew various aspects of House Bill 1 and House Bill 2 to avoid possible legal challenges.
“The current members, all but four of which were re-elected, campaigned on (SB) 151, were proud of 151 and want to defend 151,” Miller said. “So we have a difference with the governor from the standpoint of defending our work as opposed to winding up in court.”
Whether the amended versions of HB 1 and HB 2 will be filed as presented during Tuesday’s meeting of the House State Government Committee, which Miller chairs, depends on the outcome of a GOP caucus meeting later in the day. No vote was taken during that meeting, and Miller said testimony and a vote would be taken Wednesday.
Bevin’s office had cut a number of provision that were originally included in SB 151 in the versions of HB 1 and HB 2, such as requiring that public workers who retire refrain from taking government jobs for certain periods; moving toward level-dollar funding for pension systems; and disallowing lawmakers, public employees and trustees on the Kentucky Retirement Systems and Kentucky Teachers Retirement System boards from having any interest in KRS investments or business activities during their service or for a period of five years after they leave.
The proposed House version would largely mirror SB 151, except for adding later effective dates.
The lion’s share of proposed changes would affect Kentucky’s teachers. Current educators would still be able to credit accrued sick leave toward their retirement benefits, but the amount available would be capped on March 31.
For teachers hired April 1 and onward, they would be placed in a hybrid cash balance plan similar to those offered to newly hired state workers. Local school boards would also be required to contribute an additional 2 percent of pay toward those new retirement accounts to offset costs to the state.
Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler, who has called on teachers to voice their concerns during the special session, predicted that rural school districts would struggle to come up with an extra 2 percent of new teacher payroll to cover pension contributions.
“They are suffering,” she said after Tuesday’s meeting. “There’s a lack of infrastructure. There’s a lack of jobs. In some cases, the public school district is the largest employer in the county. That’s going to be really hard for our districts to swallow.”
Retirement security was another concern cited by Rep. Derrick Graham, a Frankfort Democrat and retired teacher.
“It will put the new teachers into a less secure hybrid plan,” Graham said.
Miller said the proposed retirement program would offer a “potentially greater reward” than the current pension plan.
Some members of the audience scoffed, with one telling Miller to “look at the stock market.”
The meeting grew testy at times. At one point, Miller told some in the audience that they “should have asked Gov. Beshear” for their retirement contributions, a reference to former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.
Other Republicans also alluded to past administrations in terms of pension funding, particularly for KTRS.
“Some are having trouble seeing the forest for the trees in terms of at least the intent of who really wants to fix this issue,” said Rep. Bam Carney, R-Campbellsville. “This issue is not going to be solved by sounding insults from the fifth row or anywhere else. Those are the facts.”
Beshear’s son, Attorney General Andy Beshear, is a 2019 gubernatorial candidate and successfully challenged the legality of SB 151 based on how the legislature handled the bill earlier this year.
When asked whether he believed HB 1 and HB 2 would pass legal muster if passed under the proposed format, Miller said he couldn’t predict since he’s not an attorney.
“One would guess that someone would file a suit,” Miller said. “Not that their initials were A.B. or anything.”
Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.
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