The area's leading online source for news!
Louisa-Lawrence Co, KY

In God We Trust - Established 2008

Menu

Date: 10-25-2017

If Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposal to fix the state’s ailing pension system is approved, state Sen. Julian Carroll says lawsuits are sure to follow.

“It’s an inviolable system and he’s trying to affect future income of state employees,” Carroll said last Thursday, one day after Bevin released his plan that would put most Julian CarrollJulian Carrollfuture state workers and teachers into a 401(k)-styled retirement plan and force current workers to contribute 3 percent of their pay into the system.

“That is illegal and there will be litigation. He’s going to have several lawsuits … the teachers and state employees will be bringing a lawsuit. I can guarantee there will be, even if I have to bring one myself.”

Carroll (D-Frankfort) warned of litigation during a town hall meeting last month at Anderson County High School, during which he and state Rep. James Tipton (R-Taylorsville) weighed in on the state pension crisis.

Both men during that meeting vowed not to vote for any proposals that would affect the pension plans of current workers.

Tipton issued an op-ed Monday following last week’s announcement, saying he would like to see the actual bill, which is expected to be lengthy.

“The actual legislation should be finalized in the next few days and it is my understanding that the actual bill will be over 400 pages long,” Tipton said. “Once the proposed bill is finalized, it will be sent to each of the respective pension systems to review and report back to the legislature with a fiscalimpact statement.”

Carroll said he’s also trying to fully figure out what all is in the bill.

“You can’t rely on anyone telling you the general things it does,” said Carroll. “Candidly, there would be some sneaky stuff in there.”

The state currently has an unfunded pension liability of at least $64 billion, ranking as the worst funded system in the nation, according to information provided by Bevin’s office. 

Using prior funding patterns, experts conclude that the Kentucky Employee Retirement System, Non-Hazardous (KERS-NH), will run completely out of money by the year 2022 if meaningful pension reform does not occur, his office said.

With $7 billion in negative cash flow over the past decade, Kentucky’s pension spending has been increasing nearly five times as fast as revenues. This effectively reduces funds available for other important budgetary priorities such as education, healthcare, public safety and transportation infrastructure, his office said.

While largely leaving current state employees and teachers alone, the proposed changes will place future employees into a defined benefit system, such as a 401(k) that allows employees to place a percentage of their pay into a market-based retirement account, a percentage of which would be matched by the state.

Carroll said the fact that the proposal would require current teachers and government workers to kick in 3 percent of their salaries to shore up the ailing pension system is unacceptable.

“[Bevin’s] putting it on the backs of the recipients,” Carroll said.

“They’re not the reason for the problem. It’s the payers … the legislators and executive branches who are responsible for not keeping this whole. 

“But instead of picking up the tab, he puts it on the recipients, which aggravates the problem.”

Carroll said teachers are already in the hole financially, due to having minimal pay raises during the past decade. Carroll said he estimates teacher salaries are down at least 10 percent due to cost of living increases.

“When the cost of living goes up and you have no pay increase, it’s a pay decrease,” he said. 

“Now it’s hitting them again and the devastating thing is it will affect the caliber of teachers we attract to the system, which is so vitally important to the students.”

Bevin said today’s public retirees and employees would get to keep most of the benefits they expect, including defined-benefits pensions with payments guaranteed to last for the rest of their lives, according to a report at Kentucky.com, the website for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

And, Bevin is quoted as saying, there would not be a “clawback” of cost-of-living adjustments from state retirees that pension consultants recommended in August.

Over the next three decades, he said, Kentucky will commit to paying off the tens of billions of dollars it owes in unfunded pension liabilities to school teachers and state and local government retirees with a “level dollar” funding model that fully covers costs, rather than the old model of relying on a percentage of the state’s declining payroll.

“Keeping the promise is really the crux of what we are doing here today,” Bevin said.

The proposal drew criticism from a number of fronts, including from the Bluegrass Institute, which questioned how Bevin is protecting taxpayers.

“Frankfort’s politicians have been spending too much time in this pension debate wringing their hands over how to keep the political class and state workers – Kentucky’s largest voting bloc – happy while hoping taxpayers will consider the whole matter too complicated and complex to understand, much less engage about,” said the organization’s CEO, Jim Waters.

In a joint op-ed, Bevin, Senate President Robert Stivers and Speaker of the House Jeff Hoover said the proposal is fiscally responsible.

“The right thing to do is often difficult, but we are determined to fix the pension problem. We are doing it in a way that will be of the most benefit to all Kentuckians,” they said. “This is the most comprehensive and fiscally responsible pension reform plan in the history of the United States. We are confident that the rest of the country will pay close attention to this solution and that it will serve as a prudent model for others to follow.”

October 25, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC -- U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (KY-05) announced that he has cosponsored H.R. 4079, the bipartisan Restoring Enforcement Standards to Track Opioids Responsively and Effectively (RESTORE) Act. This legislation will Rep. Hal RogersRep. Hal Rogersrestore the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) power to hold distributors, wholesalers and pharmacies responsible for their roles in the nation's deadly opioid epidemic. This authority was restricted last year with the passage of S. 483, which H.R. 4079 fully repeals.

A recent joint investigative report by the Washington Post and 60 Minutes shed light on efforts by companies in the pharmaceutical industry to remove some of DEA’s statutory and regulatory authority to crack down on distributors and pharmacies that had not been diligent or vigilant in tracking the amount of painkillers being pumped in and out of their supply chains and pharmacies, respectively. The resulting legislation, authored by Rep. Tom Marino, limited the ability of DEA to suspend a company’s license in these situations.

Congressman Rogers sponsored the RESTORE Act to fully reinstate the DEA's ability to immediatately suspend a company’s license to distribute, sell or disburse controlled substances if that company’s actions or lack of action pose an "imminent danger to public health or safety."

"I've been fighting S. 483 since this harmful bill was introduced in 2015. I personally reached out to the bill's sponsors and those in leadership, sharing my opposition to any legislation that hamstrings the ability of the DEA to go after those responsible for driving addiction in our country - whether intentionally or negligently. Some important changes were made; however, it is clear that the bill has unfortunately had the chilling effect on DEA that I initially feared," said Congressman Rogers, co-founding co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. "It's time to restore DEA's full authority to rein in irresponsible actors that are endangering communities around the country. I urge my colleagues to act swiftly on the legislation."

 

Date: 10-23-2017

UPDATED TODAY, October 24, 2017

Kentucky pension reform: Does Matt Bevin have the votes to pass his plan?

Click to hear what Gov. Bevin says about pensions and raising taxes

 From Brad Bowman@Kentucky Democratic Party and others on SoundCloud.

{UPDATE: State Rep. Jill York called and said she has not been given a copy of the Governor's pension plan so she does not know enough to give an opinion. Also, Amanda Stamper from Governor Bevin's office called and said the quote heard on the audio was taken out of context by the Democrats to make it sound like Bevin is against the teachers. She said his mother and grandmother were teachers and he knows how hard they work and how little they get paid but something has to be done to keep the pensions from being stopped because of lack of funding.} 

 

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Matt Bevin was not alone Wednesday when he released the plan to change Kentucky's pension laws. He was joined by House Speaker Jeff Hoover and Senate Present Robert Stivers.

The public endorsements by the two Republican legislative leaders was a strong sign that once the plan becomes a bill and is considered by the House and Senate, it will pass.

In fact Bevin predicted later Wednesday that the bill will pass the Republican-controlled House and Senate "with flying colors."

But House Democratic Caucus Chairman Dennis Keene, of Wilder, said Friday if the bill passes the House it may be with only votes of majority Republicans.

"Right now I don't know of any Democrats in the House who are for it," Keene said. "I think it passes the Senate, but I think the concerns that have been raised about it means that it will not be an easy task for Speaker Hoover to secure the votes they need in the House."

Bevin hailed the plan Wednesday as a "national model" and said it will finally put Kentucky on a path to resolving its public retirement system debts that officially are booked at about $40 billion but that Bevin says are actually more than $64 billion.

The plan would put new teachers and most other new public employees into savings plans similar to 401(k)-style plans used widely by private sector employers. Current employees and teachers would be shifted into such plans after working 27 years under their current traditional pension plans.

It would change the way the government pays for retirement benefits, requiring big increases in state spending on pensions beginning next year.

But the plan has drawn opposition because it cuts benefits in several ways. For instance, current employees and teachers would be required to pay 3 percent more of their salaries for retirement health benefits.

Retired teachers would see cost of living increases of 1.5 percent in their benefits suspended for five years, and teachers who retire in the future would not get such adjustments for the first five years.

Many stakeholder groups have objected to at least major parts of the plan. "I'm not a political person, so I don't know if it will pass," said Jim Carroll, president of the advocacy group Kentucky Government Retirees. "But I've never seen as much engagement by stakeholder groups with legislators on anything like I'm seeing now."

Carroll said as lawmakers of either party hear the concerns support for the plan - at least in its current form, could weaken.

Senate Republican Leader Damon Thayer, of Georgetown, said, "I'm hearing very positive things from members of both chambers. I personally don't know how anybody could vote against it. We're doing what must be done — taking on a crisis in a meaningful way. It's not a perfect plan, but it's a good one."

The baseline numbers look good for Bevin. Republicans hold a strong 64-36 majority in the House and a 27-11 majority in the Senate.

Moreover, like most bills, this one is expected to only a majority of members voting - so long as at least 40 members vote yes - to pass. House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, R-Prospect, said he does not expect the bill to carry any appropriation or emergency effective date - conditions that would mean the bill would need at least 51 votes to pass.

Keene said that concerns over the plan should sway some Republicans House members, particularly the 23 freshmen worried about re-election. Many of those freshmen represent rural areas where school districts and local government are the major employers.

But Osborne said he's not worried about losing the freshman class. "They came here to make a change, to do the difficult work of government," Osborne said. "Many of them ran their campaigns on this issue."

Keene said Democrats have various concerns about the plan. One major concern of many is that it has no provision to raise new revenue, which he said is badly needed not just to ease any cuts in benefits in pension plans but to avoid massive cuts to other government programs to pay for pensions.

Bevin has said he will soon call a special legislative session where his plan - by then in the form of a bill - will be considered.

"I don't know if they have the votes. But if the governor makes the call for the special session, I expect that means he's been advised that he's got the votes," House Republican Whip Wilson Stone, of Scottsville, said on Friday. "He has not issued that call, so that might mean he's not quite there yet."

By Tom Loftus
The Courier-Journal

 

October 25, 2017 

The Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and the Department of Juvenile Justice are launching a new incentive fund for local programs that supervise youth in the community, cutting taxpayer costs and reserving secure facilities for only the most serious offenders.

The move is part of a comprehensive overhaul of Kentucky’s juvenile justice system – known as Senate Bill 200 – that took effect in 2015. It called for more effective use of government resources and better use of community interventions to protect public safety and hold offenders accountable.

As a result, the department will award up to $1 million in grants this year to local judicial districts that provide community-based services, treatment programs or alternatives to out-of-home placement. Districts or groups of districts will apply for the funds through a partnership with the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), which is acting as the fiscal agent for the grants.

“These efforts are the perfect example of doing more with less,” said Kentucky Justice Secretary John Tilley. “We are holding government accountable for better results and offenders accountable for better choices. And we are doing it while continuing to preserve public safety. I want to commend the department, the courts and all of the communities who are joining together to bring these reforms to fruition.”

Carey Cockerell, commissioner for the Department of Juvenile Justice, said he expects strong interest from judicial districts.

“Local services and supervision have been shown to reduce recidivism and provide better outcomes for youth, families and communities,” Commissioner Cockerell said. “Many judicial districts are already reaping the benefits of SB 200, and this incentive fund will only strengthen our momentum.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Whitney Westerfield, who sponsored SB 200, praised the progress.

“SB 200 has been an enormous success here in Kentucky, and has inspired similar sea change policy reforms in half a dozen other states across the country,” Sen. Westerfield said. “Because of our focus on better outcomes for youth, we’ve been able to free up precious resources to provide additional services for youth most at risk, right in their own communities. Kentucky’s smarter investment in the lives of its children and their families will continue to pay dividends for many years to come.”

The maximum amount that any district or group of districts can receive from the incentive fund is $200,000. The minimum amount is $10,000.

Programs may include family and community reintegration and prevention services, restorative justice programs, in-home and wraparound services, afterschool and evening reporting, community work projects, basic life skills, job skills and employment training, job placement, educational support, as well as mentoring and apprenticeship programs.

The AOC is providing technical assistance to help judicial districts and community stakeholders write their applications. Experts from AOC will also collect and report on data that judicial districts are required to maintain under the incentive program.

“This is good government at work,” said Laurie K. Dudgeon, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. “The money we would have spent to detain youth will instead be used to provide resources and treatment services to young people in communities across the state. I appreciate the AOC’s close partnership with the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet and the Department of Juvenile Justice, and I’m pleased the incentive fund will help us realize the full intent of Senate Bill 200.”

Funding for the incentives was available thanks to savings from SB 200. The legislation sought to improve outcomes in the juvenile justice system by expanding access to timely, quality treatment and supervision in the community, focusing the most intensive resources on serious offenders, and enhancing data collection and oversight mechanisms to ensure the policies are working.

So far, it has reduced the department’s total youth population by 60 percent since fall 2013. New commitments fell from 493 in 2013 to 253 last year.

That has allowed the department to realign operations over the past 18 months, reducing dependence on secure facilities and channeling more funds toward community-based practices. Four facilities have been closed or consolidated into the department’s system during that time.

Overall, the reforms have freed up $4 million to reinvest in community supervision, aftercare services, day treatment centers, and the new incentive fund.

From Justice and Public Safety Cabinet

 

October 19, 2017

By: Gov. Matt Bevin, Senate President Robert Stivers, and Speaker of the House Jeff Hoover

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Oct. 19, 2017) - “Keeping the Promise,” our plan to save Kentucky’s pension systems, keeps the promise made to Kentucky’s current employees while also meeting the legal and moral obligations we owe to those who have already retired. Promises made are promises kept.

Make no mistake: there will be no changes, clawbacks or reductions to the paychecks of current retirees, and there will be protections for healthcare benefits. That is a promise you can literally take to the bank.

This legislature is committed to solving the pension crisis, and is ready to lead by example. Our pension legislation immediately stops the defined benefits plan for all legislators, moving them into the same plan as other state employees under the jurisdiction of the KRS Board. Future elected officials will be required by law to pay the full ARC amount, creating a new funding formula that mandates hundreds of millions more every year into every retirement plan, until they are fully funded.

Looking to the future, the defined benefit plans of current employees and teachers will continue until they reach the promised level of service for their pension, with no increase to the retirement age. As new non-hazardous employees and teachers enter the workforce, they will be enrolled in a defined contribution retirement plan that provides comparable or better retirement benefits. Hazardous employees will continue in the same plan they are in now. We are also closing the loophole that has prevented the payment of death benefits for the families of hazardous employees.

“Keeping the Promise” will improve the Commonwealth’s rating with credit agencies. These ratings have steadily declined in recent years specifically due to our unfunded pension burdens.

The right thing to do is often difficult, but we are determined to fix the pension problem. We are doing it in a way that will be of the most benefit to all Kentuckians. This is the most comprehensive and fiscally responsible pension reform plan in the history of the United States. We are confident that the rest of the country will pay close attention to this solution and that it will serve as a prudent model for others to follow.

For those retired, for those working, and for those yet to be hired: we are truly fixing our broken pension systems.

United we stand. Divided we fall.