Escalating fight over pension reform while Kentucky budget moves in house

Escalating fight over pension reform while Kentucky budget moves in house
(Source: Dale Mader/WAVE 3 News)

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Newly revealed state budget proposals emerged from committee late Wednesday and are soon headed to the Kentucky House floor for a vote.

The house budget is expected to raise taxes on cigarettes and opioids. It also departs significantly from cuts proposed by Gov. Matt Bevin.

GOP senators promoting pension reform also had a face-to-face showdown with state teachers and employees at a public hearing.

Hundreds of employees, teachers and retirees from around the state converged on the capital in a show of solidarity against GOP proposals that would reduce cost-of-living increases for retirees, and limit the way employees could leverage accumulated sick days toward their retirement.

On social media, Attorney General Andy Beshear called the changes illegal.

"Sadly, Senate Bill 1 (pension reform) violates the contract and takes away many retirement rights that were inside that inviolable contract," Beshear said. "Let them sit down and come to a solution that does not violate that promise."

Pension reform bill sponsor, Sen. Joe Bowen of Owensboro, objected to Beshear's comments.

"We started engaging in this process last July, last August," Bowen said. "And now at the 11th hour the Attorney General has decided to weigh in on this. And I think that's quite unfortunate."

Kentucky Education Association (KEA) President Stephanie Winkler warned GOP leaders of consequences in her testimony before the senate committee.

"Everyone in education knows that if you make a promise to a student, they will never ever let you forget it," Winkler said.

Teachers and retirees crowding into the packed room responded with cheers and applause.

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