Encouraging that pension bill almost ready for introduction

Published 2:41 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2018


The State Journal

Though it’s later than some may have preferred, it’s encouraging news that a state pension bill could be filed as early as this week.

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Last year, citizens repeatedly were told a special session would be called on pension reform, but when news broke that former House Speaker Jeff Hoover and other Republican legislators had settled a sexual harassment claim it appeared to distract legislators and the general public from the most important task — funding and fixing Kentucky’s ailing pension system. Gov. Matt Bevin admitted as much when talking to reporters on Dec. 11.

Now, we’re deep into the 2018 regular session — more than a third of the way through — and, though it’s clearly the most important issue in the state, the pension bill has received relatively little public discussion in the legislature.

Weeks of behind-the-scenes work, however, could lead to a bill being filed as early as this week, The Associated Press reported. However, details of the bill were not provided.

Acting House Speaker David Osborne specifically said a bill could be filed early this week and legislators will tackle the issue before the end of the 2018 legislative session.

That bill would need to fully fund, or at least address, a shortfall of tens of billions of dollars in benefits to state employees. Two basic options sit before state legislators: Cut government spending to fund the shortfall or raise revenue, which doesn’t necessarily involve raising taxes on existing services or products. The end result will likely be a mix of spending cuts and new revenue.

The bill introduced in the legislature should be carefully crafted. It’s contents should be thoroughly vetted in public, and Kentuckians should have ample time to review and weigh in on the proposal before a final vote is taken.

If legislators remain focused on pension reform and the state’s two-year budget, another important item, a bill introduced this week should allow enough time in the legislative session for thorough vetting. If not, there aren’t many more weeks left before bill-filing deadlines.

For matters as important as the budget and pension, both of which will have significant impacts on Frankfort, transparency and prolonged public scrutiny are good things.

Some may cringe at the thought of Bevin saying the pension proposal will be a “good bill.” Still, it’s encouraging that Republicans legislators are optimistic a pension bill is ready for introduction.