Bevin’s proposal for special session gains support in Kentucky Senate

Support grows for special session on pension relief

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WAVE) - In Frankfort, it appears more lawmakers are getting on board with Gov. Matt Bevin’s alternative version of a quasi-government agency pension relief bill.

That means a special session is getting closer to becoming a reality, but not everyone is sold.

The bill allows some health departments, regional universities, rape crisis centers and mental health facilities to pay their way out of the pension system to avoid an increase in costs.

“I think it now becomes a component of getting a few more votes here and there and then a scheduling issue before July 1,” Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) said.

Stivers said his chamber is close to finding consensus as the Bevin administration meets with legislators.

"We haven't formally sat down and polled, we've not heard any major objections," Stivers said.

Those lobbying against the bill said they believe the House is still not that far along.

If lawmakers don’t take action before July 1, quasi-government agencies are scheduled to see pension contribution rates shoot up to more than 80 percent.

Some in the General Assembly want to solely freeze rates at around 49 percent, the current rate for some, if called into a special session.

“It seems to me that there’s more support for that notion in the House than there is in the Senate,” Jim Carroll, President of the advocacy group Kentucky Government Retirees, said. “We have heard a lot of legislators believe that’s the path forward.”

Carroll said that's what he wants to see, and he's been communicating that to lawmakers.

“To come in and pass a bill that freezes the contribution rate for quasi-government agencies for another year,” Carroll said. “Then, in 2020, we’d like for them to look at funding sources.”

Stivers said that would send the wrong message to credit ratings agencies.

“You cant freeze the rates and do nothing,” Stivers said. “Because this is what will happen with just a freeze, that 87 percent will grow.”

Regardless, all said its important to have a session before July because costs incurred after that time could cripple agencies across the commonwealth.

Stivers said a good way to illustrate the rising costs for some agencies is to look at them in smaller increments. At a spike to an 87 percent contribution rate, for each $10,000 in payroll, employers would have to pay $8,700 in pension costs.

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