Time and momentum appear to be running out on Kentucky's pension bill

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Gov. Matt Bevin is trying to ramp up the pressure on lawmakers to pass the pension reform bill, but time is running out and so, apparently, is the bill's momentum.

There are eight days left in the 2018 session, and there is no sign lawmakers are anywhere close to an agreement. Over the weekend, Bevin released a video urging pressure on lawmakers to pass the pension bill.

“I'm asking you please reach out to your legislators, and say ‘Don't allow this to fail on our watch. Don't kick this down the road one more year,’” Bevin said in the video posted to his social media accounts.

On Feb. 9, the pension bill was pulled from the Senate floor and sent back to committee. It has been stuck there since with no sign of movement.

“We don't have the votes right now. It's close,” Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said Monday.

Thayer said a handful of lawmakers in the Senate, and even more in the House, will need to change their minds for the bill to pass.

“I'm not very optimistic," Thayer said. "I'm hopeful. Hope springs eternal down here, and I've learned never to say never."

Meantime, teachers continue to lead the opposition, staging a protest outside Atherton High School before dawn Monday. Sen. Morgan McGarvey, who was among the political leaders who attended, said it is time to pull the plug on the pension bill and start from scratch.

“We have find revenue, and we need to make some structural changes going forward," McGarvey said. "We can find agreement on that."

McGarvey believes a pension deal is possible only if everyone sits down at the table.

“We need input from the stakeholders," he said. "We need input from the teachers who live it every day."

Thayer said if pension reform does not happen this session, Kentucky’s credit rating will take an immediate hit, making it more expensive for the state to borrow money.

“It will eventually make its way to increased cost to the taxpayers or reduction in services or increase in taxes,” he said.

Thayer estimates the worst of the pension systems, the KERS, is four to five years away from insolvency. He said the teachers’ retirement system (KTRS) is about 15 years away from running out of money.

McGarvey does not dispute the urgency of the problem.

"We have to get together and figure out where we're going to get the money and what changes are possible so that we have a good system,” he said.

If a pension bill does not pass, Thayer said a special session is always possible. But he added nothing can happen until there's a bill most lawmakers can support.

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