FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Gov. Matt Bevin suggesed Monday that he may not call a special legislative session to shore up the state's beleagurered pension systems for government employees.
"There is nothing magical about getting it done on a particular date or a particular month or whether it is a special session or not," Bevin told reporters in an impromptu press conference at the Capitol. "Is it still possible? Yes. Will it happen? We'll see."
Bevin had said he would call the legislature back before the end of the year to vote on a proposal to reform Kentucky's retirement systems, which are widely considered among the worst-funded in the nation. However, the proposal has sparked protests by government employees, including teachers who are part of the politically powerful Kentucky Education Association.
Bevin warned Monday of dire consequences if pension reform legislation isn't enacted soon.
"Time is of the essence," he said. "We're about to see a downgrading of the debt that this state has issued, with a number of our school bonds. It doesn't bode well.
The unfunded liability of Kentucky's pension plans ranges from $30 to $60 billion. But Bevin said there's a more immediate problem to be addressed: a budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.
The governor said he expects more bad news when the Consensus Forecasting Group, a panel of economists, meets on Friday.
"While I don't have the ability to predict, it would be our expectations that we're likely to see that it's not the $150 or $200 million, that it's even worse than that," he said. "In the next six months, we'll have to come up with another $250 million. That's just for this year."
Bevin said: "These things are imperative to be addressed. We are in dire straits financially."
When asked if there could still be a special session on pension reform next week rather than waiting for the regular session in January, Bevin replied, "There's absolutely a chance. It has been my intention without question. However, it's also important to understand that when things happen, and Lord knows, with all the shenanigans that have been going on in the House, have not helped the cause at all."
Bevin was referring to the sexual harassment settlement between a House GOP staffer and four representatives, including former Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, who resigned his leadership post after the settlement came to light.