Kentuckians fight back against GOP pension theft
Hundreds of Kentuckians made sure Republican lawmakers saw their signs and slogans Wednesday as they flooded the Capitol Annex opposing the GOP’s latest pension bill, which many called thievery.
Attorney General Andy Beshear alerted lawmakers and the public on Wednesday saying he has written a letter to the lawmakers calling to their attention many of the pension bill’s provisions violate current law.
Those provisions include changing retirees’ sick days, cost of living adjustments and health care costs. The letter in its entirety can be found here https://go.usa.gov/xnt8Q
Without any financial analysis of the bill, Republicans had their first hearing on the bill, took no vote and only let three people speak against the bill who had prearranged it with the bill’s primary sponsor Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro.
Bowen said a committee substitute was added to the bill and highlights shared in the hearing reflected those changes. But according to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy (KCEP), those changes don’t reverse the drastic financial loss for educators and increased costs for the retirement systems.
By the numbers
In the KCEP analysis, the bill adds an additional $184 million in costs to the state employee and state police pension plans over the next 35 years.
- The new substitute , which calls for a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) reduction to 1 percent until the Teachers Retirement System is 90 percent funded, would result in a loss of income for average teacher’s lifetime earnings estimated between $65,000 if it takes 20 years and $67,000 if it takes 25 years;
- The County Employee Retirement System (CERS) would cost employers 53 percent increase in funding costs over the next year.
A full report of the center’s analysis can be read at http://bit.ly/2oA8wJn
Retired and current teachers and public employees weren’t the only ones protesting at the Capitol Wednesday. A large number of union members showed up to voice their continued support for working-class Kentuckians.
John Stovall of Teamsters Local 783 said members came to the Capitol to protect the public pensions of state, city and county employees.
“It’s a funding problem that shouldn’t be put on the backs of members who have worked their careers and paid into their pension plan and are now being asked to solve the problem again,” Stovall said.
I couldn’t agree with Mr. Stovall more. It’s unjust and dishonest for the Legislature to change the terms of any Kentuckian’s pension who has not only devoted their life and livelihood to public service but also paid into it.
We can’t speak from one side of our mouth saying we value our children’s education, but not fund it or the pensions of those who earned it.
We can no longer validate lower pay to our public employees with the promise of a pension if the Legislature decides not to own up to their end of the contract.
Teachers, police and the public workforce have paid into their pensions. They’ve paid their share for costs as was agreed in the contract. They have mandatory amounts taken from their paychecks for their pensions and it’s intellectually dishonest to pit them against taxpayers.
They are taxpayers. They are our fellow Kentuckians.
Nema Brewer, a member of the Kentucky employees advocacy group United We Stand, said she came to the Capitol to push back against the pension bill.
“We oppose this bill completely,” Brewer said. “We’re here to say we want to be heard and this bill is not acceptable. We’re here to stand up and rise up together. Let’s do something right for the commonwealth.”
We’ve known about the revenue shortfalls under the Bevin administration and the fallout it continues to have on our state budget, but he has found money to pay his adoption czar friend $20,000 a month without any public record of his work product.
He found an additional $60,000 golden parachute to award him after terminating his contract with no explanation to taxpayers.
The governor also found over $1 million to pay a firm to audit the state pension systems to produce recommendations no one has used, but refuses to find revenue needed on a debt that is due.
Moreover, the greatest lie of this entire pension-bill sell is letting Republican lawmakers determine what they will pay for and what they will not. That’s not how the free market works. Anything less than honoring the state’s obligations should be called what it is —thievery.
Unfortunately, if this bill goes through it’s theft in every school, city, county and every police and fire department.