FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Legislative leaders gave no details on a public pension reform plan, saying there is more work to be done before a special session is called.
House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, did say they are much closer than three weeks ago.
“I would hope that over the next week or 10 days, we would be closer to where we would be in position to make some public announcement. We’re not there yet, but we’re much closer than we were.”
A month ago, Hoover said once an agreement is reached, it would take three weeks to draft the bill, and he wanted members to have a month to look at it. He reiterated that Wednesday afternoon.
“I think it’s important for our members to have sufficient time to consider the proposal once we get there.”
He reminded reporters that when a session is up to Gov. Matt Bevin
“Neither of us can call a special session. Only the governor can do that, and obviously we defer to him on what date he chooses.”
Hoover would not comment on remarks Gov. Matt Bevin made Tuesday, when he said new hires would be put into a 401-K plan. “In our meetings, we had an agreement not to discuss anything publicly regarding the plan, so I’m going to stick to that, until we are in agreement that we could do that from the legislative side. And we’re not there yet.”
He also declined to respond on whether current state pension plan participants would lose benefits, saying they would not comment until they reach agreement on the plan. But, Hoover added, “I do think once we do that, there will be a big sigh of relief from folks all over Kentucky.”
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, agreed there’s still a lot that needs to be done. “Drafting of a bill, actuarial analysis, discussion with our colleagues. We have started that with our colleagues in the Minority Caucuses. We have plenty of time between now and January to do this.
“We want to make sure this is morally right, legally defensible, philosophically it does what we think it should do, and is fiscally responsible to all people involved, both the recipients and the taxpayers of Kentucky.”
Some people are advocating expanded gaming, legalizing marijuana, or perhaps additional taxes on tobacco and alcohol, to bring in new revenue.
“We really haven’t talked about revenue,” Stivers said. “We’ve talked about what the expenditure levels are, the cost to the system and what we need to put into it, to make it actuarily sound. Then we’ll deal with the costing of it as we get into drafting a budget in the 2018 session.”
Hoover said it’s important that they don’t dig the hole deeper.
“Whether it’s $30 billion, $35 billion or whatever it is, there’s a hole. And the key for us is to not go any deeper, and start on a long-term solution to filling that hole in. That’s the goal for all of us.”
House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said his caucus has been largely left out of the process.
“I have not had my first meeting with the governor or any of his executive staff. My first full briefing was the recommendations made by the PFM Consulting Group, which I think were pretty outrageous. Most of those recommendations have been taken off the table.
“Today was my first briefing, along with House Democratic leadership, with just the bullet-points of what they’ve been talking about. And none of those have really been agreed to among them and their own membership. I think there are a lot of questions for us, just as I believe there are a lot of questions within the Republican Caucus.”
He said the so-called “inviolable contract” made with public employees is the first subject that comes up. “Are we going to take care of existing employees and retirees? If we’re going to move into a special session, I believe it’s important that the legislation would come forward so different groups that are going to be impacted by this can see it. They need to know, they ought to know, and especially as members who are going to be casting votes, it’s important that we’re fully informed.”
Adkins recalled a special session on health care during the administration of former Gov. Paul Patton, when lawmakers were there for two weeks and no legislation was passed. “I would caution this governor not to call a special session until he has the votes.”
A special session costs about $65,000 per day and lasts a minimum of five days, since three readings on three different days are required in each chamber.
“As we move closer to January, if there’s not an agreement on this legislation of where to go and how to get there, I would say wait until the regular session, which is also a budget session,” Adkins said.