Bevin dismisses Democratic pension relief plan as 'immoral'

Bevin

LOUISVILLE -- Gov. Matt Bevin strongly dismissed a House Democratic plan to provide financial relief on skyrocketing pension costs for regional universities and quasi-govermental agencies, saying it makes too many assumptions and "frankly is immoral."

The Republican governor also said he would call a special legislative session by the end of this month to address the problem but did not offer a specific date when it should begin. House Republican leaders have suggested it start July 19.

Bevin's comments came at Kentucky Chamber's 2019 Business Summit in front of several hundred people. The business organization invited both Bevin and Democratic nominee, Attorney General Andy Beshear, to attend but Beshear, who claims the chamber supports Bevin, declined. An empty chair was placed next to Bevin and moderator Jacqueline Pitts, communications director for the chamber.

Less than 24 hours after House Democrats unveiled an alternative to Bevin's pension-relief bill, Bevin made it clear he did not like it. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the House 61 to 29

House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said, "It's disappointing that Gov. Bevin would tear down a plan that was offered as a good-faith and bipartisan effort by the House Democrats.

"Our proposals have been well-received by the stakeholders and are backed up with a solid actuarial analysis. What is immoral is taking away the retirement security that thousands of dedicated public servants have been counting on for years if not decades."

The goal of the Democratic plan and Bevin's is to provide financial relief to regional universities and quasi-governmental agencies like mental health centers and libraries in steep spikes in their public-pension costs.

They have argued on how to deal with retirement security for the employees involved.

The Democratic plan would adjust assumptions Kentucky Retirement Systems uses to calculate employer costs each year and expect more money from its investments.

For example, the investment rate would -- for one year only -- be moved from the current 5.25 to 6 percent while payroll growth would go from from 0 to 1 percent per year.

"They assume more money from the markets," said Bevin, saying such a plan was "unacceptable, frankly immoral."

Of Beshear's absence at the meeting, Bevin said, "You get to choose one of the two of us. You have to decide how do you respond to the fact that someone is not willing to sit and speak with you."

In a second four-year term, Bevin said his priorities would be addressing the state's pension crisis and modernizing its tax laws.

He touted his administration's economic development efforts, noting that the state ended the fiscal year June 30 with nearly a $200 million surplus and has recorded about $20 billion in private capital investment since he took office in December 2015 -- an all-time record for any four-year administration.

He said he did not worry that polls show him with low favorability ratings. "I've always been unpopular," he said.