State GOP leaders confident over pension bill despite criticism
FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - State Republicans are confident their new pension plan will gain acceptance from teachers and state employees and eventually solve the multi-billion dollar pension shortfall.
"We've been through this process for some six months now, meeting countless hours, countless days, countless weeks and driving countless miles to get to where we are," bill sponsor Senator Joe Bowen said. "And this is a good product. I for one don't think that anybody can really find fault with what we've done."
Republican House and Senate leaders took questions from reporters Wednesday and said all decisions when crafting the 289 page document were driven strictly by data and the need to cut costs.
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But under the new Republican pension plan, future teachers will have to work longer and possibly accept less when they finally reach retirement. And critics said the plan is still going to hit taxpayers hard by pushing more of the pension burden to the local level.
"This bill does some things that I think are disturbing and shifts pension liabilities off the state and onto school districts and local governments," Chris Tobe, former retirement system trustee and author of "Kentucky Fried Pensions," said.
Tobe criticized the current plan as "just a way of kicking the can, not down the road, but onto other entities."
KEA President Stephanie Winkler said many local school systems won't be able to handle the extra expense. And the Governor Matt Bevin's proposed budget cuts will make the problem worse.
"We have so many school districts now that are so cash strapped that can't even make payroll," Winkler said. "If we do not do something to provide funding to this vital public service, then we are not doing our best for Kentucky's future and that's our kids."
If approved in its current state, Kentucky Government Retirees President Jim Carroll said pension reform could be headed to court.
"It makes changes in some cases we believe to be illegal," Carroll said. "Such as taking away sick time credit and other changes that we think is unnecessary like imposing the new employee contribution on insurance."
Debate over the pension plan could begin next week when the bill is expected to be scheduled for a committee hearing.
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