FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Gov. Matt Bevin turned to his Facebook page Saturday night to ask current and retired state workers to put pressure on lawmakers to act on the troubled public pension plan.
Bevin’s four-minute video said if structural changes aren’t made, the teachers’ retirement system will be out of money in 12 to 15 years.
“You should be very concerned,’’ he said. “I’m asking you, please, reach out to your legislators and say ‘Don’t allow this to fail on your watch. Don’t kick this down the road one more year.’ It’s unacceptable. We need to fully fund it, but we also have to make sure that we’re not throwing money into a bottomless pit. Structural changes must happen.”
Teachers and state workers have been riled up over the plan to fix the public pension systems that are stalled in the Senate. More than a thousand protested at the Capitol last week and thousands of many teachers took to the streets of their hometowns on Friday, waving signs as cars drove past honking in support.
Senate Bill 1 would end traditional pensions for future teachers and cut retired teachers’ cost-of-living allowances, among other changes designed to cut costs.
Senate leadership confessed it will be difficult to pass such a bill before the legislative session ends April 13.
“It has a very limited and difficult path forward at this point in time,” Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said last week after saying the week before “I have the votes” to pass the measure.
In the video, Bevin said he has fully funded the system, which had gone years without full funding from previous administrations.
However, without structural changes, he said continuing to put in more and more money would be “like putting water into a bucket with a hole in the bottom of it. We have to patch the bottom of the bucket in this case before we fill it up.”
Bevin angered teachers last week in a Campbellsville radio interview where he said teachers who oppose the bill are “selfish” and “ignorant” among other criticisms. That led to teachers reacting with protests at the Capitol.
The governor said he has “tremendous respect” for teachers and that several of his family members worked as teachers, including his grandmother. She was a public-school teacher who lived off a retirement pension until she was 94 years old, he said.
“If her checks had stopped coming, I don’t know what she would’ve done,” he said. “The reality will be the same for many of you. We’ve got to structurally save this system.”
Kentucky is at least $41 billion shy of what it needs to pay retirement benefits over the next 30 years. Lawmakers have committed to putting $3.3 billion into the pension system over the next two years to keep it solvent.