GOP refuses to listen to pension opponents
Teachers stood united at pension hearing.
While Senate Republicans surely heard the emotional charging chants of the GOP-pension- bill opponents Wednesday, they refused to listen.
The bill hearing marks the first time the pension bill was voted upon by the committee with a new substitute. The bill may have passed favorably out of committee, but those opposing it chanted they will “vote them out,” after the hearing.
Tuesday, Attorney General Andy Beshear sent lawmakers another letter saying the pension bill’s new substitute still violates the inviolable contract with retirees, teachers and public employees and the state will lose any lawsuit in court. Attendees mentioned it numerous times during the hearing saying they will sue the state.
The bill sponsored by outgoing Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, cuts annual cost-of-living increases for retired teachers from 1.5 percent to 1 percent.
According to Bowen, the bill will save the state $3.2 billion over the next 20 years. But Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, said he believes stripping the cost-of-living (COLA) increases is problematic.
“Because there’s evidence that the teachers put their money in and pre-funded their COLAs, for teachers who don’t get Social Security was going toward this from the start,” McGarvey said, “the evidence I’ve seen is they are pre-funded …and they are not part of the unfunded liability.”
Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D- Henderson, wanted to submit an amendment to the bill restoring the COLA, but Bowen wouldn’t allow it citing the amendment had no financial analysis. Bowen also denied McGarvey’s question on presenting an amendment even though McGarvey said it wouldn’t have any financial analysis.
In 2013, the General Assembly passed pension reform legislation putting new state employees into a cash-hybrid plan with a 4 percent guarantee of return. Legislators, McGarvey said, were told it would fix the state’s pension challenges.
“With this bill, we are going to have to go back to the same group of people and tell them we were wrong about that bill,” McGarvey said. “And not only were we wrong, we’re going to take away the benefits that we promised you in that bill and that you had been working toward the assumption you would have for the last four years.”
The committee passed the bill 7– 4 with Senators Harper Angel,D-Louisville, McGarvey and Ridley voting against it.
The Senate didn’t take up the bill on the floor, but gave it two readings Monday and Tuesday.
A rally scheduled for Monday, 5 p.m. at the Capitol, sponsored by KY United We Stand, has a straightforward message.
“Fund Us or face us. Join us as we demand to take back our pensions and our dignity from our leaders who tell us our voices don’t matter, our professions don’t matter, our services and commitment don’t matter, that we don’t matter.
We know that with proper funding the systems work and are sustainable. We believe reform should not even be considered until after equitable tax reform and revenue building is addressed.”
Co-sponsors include Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, KEA, BlueGrass Activists Alliance, Save Our Schools KY, KY United, Kentucky Government Retirees, Kentucky Public Retirees, Greater Louisville Central Labor Council, Teamsters Local 783, Jefferson County Teachers Association and Kentucky State AFL-CIO.