FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Lawmakers from both parties and both chambers still say the votes are not yet there to pass Gov. Matt Bevin’s bill to address the public pension crisis, especially as it affects the state’s regional universities and quasi-governmental agencies.
Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, who says he supported the bill lawmakers approved earlier this year but was vetoed by the governor, is undecided.
“I have some other ideas that might get us through,” Koenig said. “I think the university portion is the most important part of that scenario. It passed the House with I think 76 votes [out of 100].”
When asked why it passed so easily then, but is meeting resistance now, Koenig replied, “The university part passed easily, with the quasis, it was not so easy. I understand the quasis signed on [the governor’s proposal] with the assumption that we’re going to come back and do more things in 2020. Let’s just do those things in 2020.”
His recommendation for a special session: “Let’s pass the university stuff and phase in a 12 percent increase for the quasis this year as we’ve done in the past for local governments. Let’s deal with it all next year when we’re all in town, have more time to talk about it and generate some consensus. I think that would be an easy sell and get everything taken care of in a timely fashion.”
Koenig says he agrees with Gov. Bevin’s opposition to freezing the pension rates for another year.
“We can’t keep kicking that can down the road. We passed something this year at the last second to freeze things, and I was kind of embarrassed because I sat on my hands and didn’t vote ‘no’ and it passed 97-0. I think the 12 percent increase puts some pressure on us, as well as getting the discussion going this year. We can do everything next year, rather than doing it piecemeal.”
Rep. Al Gentry, D-Louisville, says he is not excited about the governor’s proposal.
“There are some issues there that I have to get more comfortable with before I can put forward a ‘yes’ vote. I know we have an unfunded liability problem we have to address and, really, the fight right now is how we’re going to pay for that and who’s going to pay for it. I think there needs to be some shared responsibility there for all parties and we have to figure out what’s best for everybody.”
One problem, according to Gentry, “We’re not looking for creating revenue. I’ve always said first, from a creating revenue standpoint, we should look at where we can introduce new industries that our neighboring states are already taking part in. One is expanded gaming. I think it’s obvious. It’s been out there for decades and for some reason we can’t move, while all of our neighbors continue to move in that direction.”
Gentry says he’d like to see is more oversight on corporate tax incentive packages. “So that we can better identify the ones that are working and bringing in a return on investment on what the purpose should be, which is creating jobs,’’ he said. “Surely there are some programs where we could find five percent savings.”
When asked if he believes there will be a special session before July 1, Gentry said, “We have to do something. I believe the crisis is more of a problem and a challenge that we have to deal with, but the only immediate crisis is the quasi organizations.”
As for Koenig’s 12 percent proposal, Gentry said, “I’d be interested in looking at anything at this stage. I know there are several informal ideas that are out there.”
He said there is one big difference between today and last December, when Gov. Bevin called a special session that adjourned without any final action taken on the pension situation. “We are having communications now. Both sides are actually having communications. I’ve only been here three years, but that’s a big change, and that’s a good change. Hopefully, that’s a step in the right direction.”