Senate leaders discuss politics surrounding pension special session and key factors of the proposal

Ahead of the special session on pension reforms that started Friday morning, key state Senators spoke with The Bottom Line about the pension proposal, the politics surrounding the issue, and what they expect for the coming week.

Following months of discussions and efforts to ensure enough votes to pass pension legislation, Gov. Matt Bevin announced Monday lawmakers would come back to Frankfort on Friday, July 19 to begin a special session to tackle the pension rates and exit strategy for the state’s regional universities and other quasi-governmental agencies including rape crisis centers, health departments, mental health centers, and more.

Sen. Chris McDaniel, chair of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee and the driving force behind adding the quasi-governmental groups to the legislation, told The Bottom Line Thursday night he expects Bevin’s proposal for the legislation to pass easily.

McDaniel said the services provided by these agencies are critical to the state and their communities and it is important to address the issues they face because of pension costs in order to ensure the organizations are able to make the best decision for them to stay afloat.

“The fact is, while people like to get riled up about pensions, most of these employers are asking for the relief, they’re asking for the options that are provided here [in the bill], and this is the best value for the taxpayers of the Commonwealth,” McDaniel said.

Watch the interview with Sen. McDaniel in the video below (story continues below):

Speaking more to the politics of the issue, Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said Bevin’s proposal would be the only legislation considered during the special session and a plan put forward by the House Democrats is a “non-starter,” adding he feels the proposal is another iteration of what got the state into the pension crisis in the first place. However, two bills put forward by House Democrats were filed and are expected to be heard in committee on Saturday.

“I hope the Democrats don’t try to extend the session because we will then blame them for extra money that is needlessly spent,” Thayer said, alluding to the $66,500 a day price tag of a special session.

As for some chatter that Kentucky teachers may show up at the Capitol this week as they did during the 2019 regular session when legislation impacting their retirement system was considered, Thayer said he doesn’t know why teachers would be showing up on this issue because it has no impact on the Teachers’ Retirement System and the groups it does impact, regional universities and other quasi-governmental agencies, are in favor of the proposal and want something done.

Watch the interview with Sen. Damon Thayer in the video below:

Lawmakers gaveled in and filed legislation early Friday morning before adjourning for the day. The General Assembly is expected to be in session on Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to allow for the proper amount of readings of the bill to pass through both legislative bodies. Stay tuned to The Bottom Line for more details of the special session on pensions.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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