Gov. Matt Bevin likened his efforts to rescue pensions for government employees, including teachers, to trying to save drowning victims.
“I’m being fought, in some instances, by the very people that we’re trying to save,” Bevin told 55KRC, a Cincinnati radio station. “It’s like saving a drowning victim. It’s like somebody ... they’re fighting you, fighting you and pulling you under. You just need to knock ’em out and drag ’em to shore. It’s for their own good, and we have to save this system.”
Kentucky’s public pension system is one of the worst-funded in America with a combined debt of more than $43 billion. Bevin said overhauling the system is the only way to save it.
Teachers and other government employees held multiple demonstrations at the Capitol during this year’s legislative session to show their opposition to proposals to shore up the financially troubled retirement plans.
Lawmakers passed a scaled-back fix, but it was struck down by Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd. Bevin appealed the ruling to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which has oral arguments scheduled for next month.
Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Ben Self said Bevin’s statement to the radio station were offensive because they “suggest that teachers, police officers and public employees can’t think for themselves or make informed decisions about their own future.”
Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, who is seeking his party’s nomination to run against Bevin next year, also criticized Bevin for his comments.
“Our public servants aren’t drowning victims, they are hardworking men and women who help our families every day,” Beshear said.
Bevin responded to the criticism in an interview on WHAS radio in Louisville.
“It was an analogy,” he said. “I would encourage people to look up the word analogy.”