Kentucky State Capitol

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- There are now just 25 full days left in the short 30-day legislative session in Frankfort, and lawmakers are expressing doubt that's enough time to find agreement on the complex and divisive pension issue.

The public pension working group charged with finding a way to plug the $40 billion pension hole has been meeting every week, twice a week, for nearly a month. And Senate President Robert Stivers said it's been a challenge.

"It's tough. It's divisive. It's complex," he said.

It's complex, because so many have a stake. And as Tuesday's meeting revealed, the interests sometimes compete. There are state employees concerned that changes already made to the retirement system are making recruiting harder.

"We struggle to find applicants and keep current employees," said T.J. Gilpin with the Kentucky Transportation Employees Association.

Some agencies, such as domestic violence shelters, are worried about spiraling costs.

"Without relief, shelters will have to cut staff, reduce the number of available beds and may be forced to close," said Sharon Currens with the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

And state and local governments even want their pension plan separated from the larger retirement system.

"Through separation, politics and ideology would not be a concern," said Joe Baer with Kentucky Professional Firefighters.

But lawmakers know any changes they make will have impact for years to come.

"These short-term decisions have long-term consequences," Sen. Damon Thayer said.

And its all against the backdrop of angry teachers who have already blocked one pension reform plan in court.

"So can we get it done? ... Maybe," Stivers said.

Committee co-chair Jerry Miller is still optimistic about getting something done this session — sort of.

"In terms of proposal? Yes," he said. "Passage? It's too early to say."

In the meantime Gov. Matt Bevin continues to push for a solution now.

"There has to be (a solution)," Bevin said Tuesday. "Hope really has little to do with it. It's a function of action. It's the responsibility of the legislature."

Stivers says if time runs out this session, they'll keep working. If there's a deal, they'll ask Bevin to call a special session. But lawmakers says the pension crisis will not keep them from other priorities such as passing a school safety bill.

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Reporter

I cover a range of stories for WDRB, but really enjoy tracking what's going on at our State Capitol. I grew up on military bases all over the world, but am a Kentuckian at heart. I'm an EKU alum, and have lived in Louisville for 30 years.