Gov. Bevin still deciding on running mate for 2019, says state is in big trouble if pension reforms are overturned by Supreme Court

VIDEO AT BOTTOM OF STORY: In an exclusive interview with The Bottom Line on Thursday, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin laid out what he expects his re-election campaign to look like with the possibility of a new running mate, the Democrats running for governor in 2019, and what comes next on the big issues of pension reforms and taxes.

When asked if there will be any changes to his ticket during the 2019 campaign, Bevin said he is still having those discussions with the current Lt. Governor, Jenean Hampton, and said a decision on who his running mate will be will be announced soon.

“There’s never been, I don’t believe, eight years of the same governor and lt. governor in the history of Kentucky. It’s not normal anywhere, and it’s presumptuous of me to assume things on our lt. governor’s behalf as to what her desires are,” Bevin said. “I’m also looking at what is needed as we look into the next four years. You know, what are the things that Kentucky needs and what is the team that’s best able to accomplish those things.”

As for who he will face in his re-election campaign, two Democrats have announced their runs for governor, Attorney General Andy Beshear and House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, and more names are being circulated as potential candidates in that primary.

Bevin said he is “not overly impressed with the qualifications” of those Democrats who are already in the race and those rumored to get in but added he respects individuals who are willing to run for office and take part in the process.

“So, I’m not going to embrace them and love them and say ‘hey, they’re the best,’ but at the same time I’m not going to diss the fact that they are willing to step into the fray and be public servants and put themselves out there. I respect them for that,” Bevin said. “This is why I’m confident that in the fall of 2019, we will have the governor that Kentucky needs, whoever that happens to be.”

In terms of what the big issues in this governors’ race will be, Bevin said while many of the things he ran on in 2015 have been accomplished, there is still more work to be done on issues like pensions, tax reform, school choice, and many others, which he said will be a focus of the campaign.

On the issue of pension reform, because the pension bill that passed in the 2018 session making changes to the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS) is currently in front of the Kentucky Supreme Court after the Attorney General sued over the way the bill was passed, there is a chance the legislature needs to pass another pension bill if the court overturns the legislation.

“If the Supreme Court chooses to overstep their authority, as they have in other instances….if the same thing happens on this pension bill, this state is in big trouble. Because then the failure of the pension system will be on the backs of those seven jurists. I don’t think they would want that responsibility, they shouldn’t. It’s not their authority and they shouldn’t be dictating to the legislature how the legislature passes bills or what they do when passing bills,” Bevin said.

The governor said the practice seen in recent months of the Kentucky Supreme Court making laws from the bench is extremely dangerous and said while the three branches of government, executive, judicial, and legislative, are coequal, the legislature is the most powerful as it is the closest to the people.

When asked what the legislature should do if the pension reform bill is overturned by the court, Bevin said while he cannot craft legislation and wouldn’t suggest what changes the legislature should make to a new bill, he said something must be done as Kentucky has the worst funded pension systems in the country.

“Our systems are destined for failure on the track they are on. They will not survive. The money will run out. This is a hard thing for people to believe, they say ‘well just get it from somewhere else.’ Raise taxes, people leave. It’s not just as simple as that. So, we have got to fix this,” Bevin said.

The governor also noted the impact of pension reforms on the legislative elections in November as many expected a large number of Republicans to get voted out based on their vote on the pension bill. Bevin said despite the “noisy voices in the KEA (teachers’ union)” and the anger and misinformation, he believes the election results show the people of Kentucky understand something must be done about the pension issue.

Tax reform continues to be a big topic heading into the 2019 legislative session after lawmakers passed reforms this year and are anticipated to clean up some of the language in that bill and make small changes in the coming year.

Bevin said changes need to be made to the reforms passed as they were hurried along at the end of session in order to find money to shore up the pension systems and pass a state budget for the next two years.

As for what should come next on tax reform, Bevin said he does want to see a more comprehensive tax code where the system is more consumption-oriented, and he said those changes will come with time, and he believes they have the votes to pass such reforms.

Watch the full interview segment with Gov. Bevin on the 2019 governor’s race, what comes next on the issue of pension reforms, what he wants to see on taxes, and more in the video below:

Check back on The Bottom Line on Monday for more of the exclusive interview with Gov. Bevin where he discusses the need for more infrastructure investment and what changes will be coming to education in Kentucky over the coming years.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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