Jefferson Co. teachers sue Bevin, legislative leaders over pension crisis

Updated: Nov. 30, 2016 at 12:31 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky's public pension crisis is headed for court.

Thirty active or retired teachers in Jefferson County are suing Gov. Matt Bevin, Senate President Robert Stivers, and soon-to-be-former House Speaker Greg Stumbo, arguing that Bevin's "fix," which the General Assembly passed earlier this year, still won't be enough to meet obligations.

"Prior governors and the General Assembly have consistently failed to adequately fund the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System (KTRS), resulting in an unfunded liability in excess of $24.43 billion in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015," attorney Ted Lavit claims in the suit, filed in Franklin Circuit Court Tuesday.

"KTRS merely has less than 42 cents on hand for every dollar of pension benefits it owes to its members," Lavit continued.

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And despite legislation boosting contributions by $973 million this fiscal year and next, the shortfalls "have become and are becoming more dire, onerous, and impaired," the suit claims.

Teachers' contributions total than 12.8 percent of their annual pay, but Bevin, Stivers and Stumbo have "breached the contract," the suit claims, by failing to make the legally and actuarial required contributions necessary to keep KTRS solvent so that it can meet its obligations fully.

Lavit and his clients are hopeful that the court will expand the 'class' of those eligible for compensation to the 146,000 active and retired educators enrolled in KTRS.

The suit seeks a court order forcing Bevin and lawmakers to enact legislation or executive orders necessary "to perform their constitutional and statutory duties to adequately fund KTRS." Failure to do so would deny teachers and retirees "due process" guaranteed under the U.S Constitution, the suit contends.

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"Reforming the state's ailing pension system, both for teachers and state workers, has been the top priority of Gov. Bevin's administration since day one," spokeswoman Amanda Stamper told The Courier-Journal Tuesday afternoon.

Sen. Stivers (R-Manchester) and GOP members in Kentucky's upper legislative chamber are on a policy retreat in Paducah, spokesman John Cox told WAVE 3 News via text message Wednesday.

"Not sure (Stivers) has had a chance to review it," Cox's message continued. "Will let you know if he wants to comment."

Stumbo, who leaves office December 31 following his re-election defeat November 8, "is not in today," spokesman Brian Wilkerson texted. "Our policy is not to comment on pending litigation, and we have not seen a copy of the complaint."

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