Accusations Fly, Tensions Rise As State Lawmakers Tweak Pension Bill

Henderson Webster and Union County Schools Superintendents pose for

Henderson Webster and Union County Schools Superintendents pose for

Teacher Jessica Page was showing her central Kentucky elementary school students how to play the recorder last Friday while fearing the worst from state Senate deliberations in the capital city: lawmakers have begun considering potential reforms to the state's woefully underfunded public pension system, and cutting some benefits for retired teachers was among leading possibilities. Monday, the Senate sent back to committee Senate Bill 66, a companion measure to the pension reform which would allow local governments, school boards and quasi-governmental agencies, like mental health boards, to phase in the much higher pension contributions which will be required to bail out the pension funds.

"If there's not support for (pension reform), then why bring it out?"

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, said Republican leaders were still trying to bring some members into line on the bill but he thinks they'll have a hard time doing so.

Kerr wrote in a Facebook post on Monday night that GOP leaders of the Senate retaliated against her by canceling a vote on a bill she sponsored dealing with the disposal of opioid medications.

State and Local Government Committee testimony indicates that the cash-balance plan created by SB 1 would result in a teacher starting in Franklin County who works for 30 years, beginning at age 27, and receives the Teachers' Retirement System assumed rate of return an account balance of almost $720,000 and a yearly annuitized benefit of more than $62,000.

Update: A Kentucky legislative committee has approved a bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Stivers asked rhetorically. "It's all part and parcel". "It will be the local entities that have to come up with these big dollars".

Page is one of thousands of teachers across Kentucky who have mobilized to defeat Kentucky's Senate Bill 1, joining the growing discontent among educators elsewhere in the country that has swelled after West Virginia teachers won themselves a pay raise after striking recently.

Stivers began the floor speeches Monday, reviewing studies of various actuaries and others about the causes of the unfunded liabilities. The system is 56 percent funded today. "The system will work if we just do the work".

And chanting teachers and other public workers rallying at the Capitol vowed they would be back every day until the bill was most certainly defeated.

The Kentucky pension proposal would change teacher and state worker pensions. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro - to take action on the bill.

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, responded that Democrats were locked out of discussions which produced the bill.

Senate President Robert Stivers said the bill's supporters were working with members of the Senate and House to see "what can or cannot be changed to get votes in both chambers".

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