Bevin’s pension bill would harm 116 quasi-governmental organizations

Published 6:00 pm Monday, July 22, 2019

Bevin’s KRS pension bill, which he hopes the legislature will pass in the current special session, does the opposite of ‘saving’ the situation for ‘quasis,’ the 61 public health departments, seven regional universities, 13 regional mental health units, rape, domestic violence and similar centers.

His fix would force these 116 organizations into a financial straitjacket. This would lead to further cutting services and some even going bankrupt. These critical agencies would have to penalize long-serving, qualified staff with huge losses in retirement, need to cut personnel generally, and would lack the resources to attract new staff. The bill would violate the employees’ contracts, prompting legal action.

These essential though ‘quasi’ agencies would have a choice either to pay punitive pension contributions or to pull out of the pension system with huge debts. If large numbers of employees are pulled out of the KRS system, it further weakens that pension. Public servants in the rest of the system would be under greater threat and local governments face even bigger pension bills.

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There are better solutions legislators could reach by looking at several alternative plans. Working out some form of compromise has always been the best way for democratic governments to solve sticky problems.

But Bevin is playing a political power game. He evidently thinks he is in charge of legislating, not the duly elected representatives and senators. He undercut his super-majority to force a special session and insisted they follow his lead. He has tried to meet financial problems that have taken decades to develop with one careless, uncaring stroke.

And if he harms the public, particularly if his actions hurt the most vulnerable in the population like the mentally ill and those traumatized by violence, he seems to rank that as just the price others have to pay for a tidier budget.

Kentuckians on the whole are hard-working and warm-hearted. They seem to care about their communities. Kentucky desperately needs these characteristics reflected in the ongoing legislative special session.

Margaret Gardiner