FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- The clock is ticking and there is no solution in sight to a looming pension crisis that could impact thousands of Kentuckians.
Gov. Matt Bevin is trying to build support for his pension relief bill before he calls lawmakers back to the Capitol for a special session.
But despite having Republican super-majorities in both chambers, Bevin still does not have the votes he needs.
The only activity in the Senate chamber Wednesday was a school tour.
Class was in session instead of the legislature because there is not enough support for the governor's bill.
"As of right now, I don't believe that there is a comfort level that the necessary votes are there to pass that particular proposal," said House Speaker David Osborne, a Republican from Prospect.
If lawmakers do nothing, the state's regional universities, community colleges and so-called quasi-government agencies such as domestic violence shelters and health departments face a crippling increase in their pension costs.
Their contribution rates will rise from the current 49 percent of payroll to more than 80 percent. The sharp increase could force some agencies to shut their doors.
House Minority Whip Rep. Joni Jenkins of Louisville said that could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, since many of the services performed by the "quasis" are required by law.
"If rape crisis centers, domestic violence centers close throughout the state, the state has to pick up that slack," Jenkins told WDRB News.
Bevin vetoed a relief bill lawmakers passed earlier this year.
"I was a little bit surprised and a little bit perplexed," said Senate President Robert Stivers.
Stivers said lawmakers have expressed a number of issues with Bevin's version of the pension fix. "Some people don't think that it goes far enough. Other people think it's too harsh," Stivers said.
Democrats argue that, for now, the answer is simply to freeze the current contribution rate until next year's budget session.
"Bring that relief for the rest of this year, and then let's get back in to talking about the real issues, and making any modifications and adjustments that need to me made in a bipartisan way," Adkins said.
But Bevin and other Republicans say a freeze is just a Band-aid not a long term cure.
"It just continues to grow that obligation and unfunded liability," Stivers said.
Bevin's proposal includes structural changes, such as shifting some employees to 401(k) style plans and allowing agencies to buy out of the pension system over time.
As the wrangling continues at the Capitol, time is growing short. The affected agencies need answers before their budget years begin July 1.
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