FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - The Public Pension Oversight Board got some good news and then an earful from a retired firefighter.
David Eager, the interim executive director of the Kentucky Retirement Systems, told the panel “there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel.”
He said the “the unfunded liability is flattening out, so we’re not digging ourselves any deeper. That’s great news.”
Eager said they’ve had an increase in the value of all 10 pension plans they administer, but also retirements are up over a year ago.
“We had an increase of 13.5 percent in September. We also had a spike in August, but it’s gone back down to normal levels.”
Rep. James Kay, D-Versailles expressed concern about the pension plans’ liquidity, if there is a mass retirement. “We have about 6,000 members who are eligible to retire now with full benefits,” Eager said. “If they retired tomorrow, that would be between $90 million and $100 million. We can handle that.”
Eager also admitted that all the plans are “distressed” at this time.
Greg Riggs, retired from Frankfort Fire and EMS, addressed the oversight board, many of whom are lawmakers, with a question and then peppered them with more.
“Why are the legislative and judicial retirement systems treated differently than the people you work for? It’s better funded, it doesn’t take as much chance with the money as all these others.
“Why do you even have a retirement? By Constitution, you are a part-time employee. Where else does a part-time employee have a retirement system?
“You gave it to yourselves years ago,” Riggs said. “You’ve taken care of yourselves and neglected the people you represent, who you actually work for. You’ve let them down, but you still maintain your own. Do away with your retirement system. You’re supposed to have retirement at your regular job: teachers, doctors, lawyers, whatever your profession is.
“Do what’s right, fund the system, don’t go after us, go after yourselves”, he said. “I put my share in, but you didn’t. You said, ‘we’ll use that money for this pet project or that pet project.’ Whatever the money was deferred to, it didn’t go where it was supposed to go, but you elected not to.”
In closing, he said, “This is not a Democrat or Republican thing. It’s a Kentucky thing.”
Board members did not respond to his comments, other than thanking him for taking the time to speak.
Gov. Matt Bevin has vowed to call a special session of the General Assembly to shore up the state’s public pension plans, which are among the most underfunded in the nation. It’s expected to take place sometime next month, although no date has been set as he and legislative leaders work to hammer out a proposal.