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COLUMN: Public employee pension bill is first passed by Senate

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by Paul Hornback | State Senator

This week was a busy one as the General Assembly reconvened on Tuesday to a full agenda, including committee meetings and the passage of several pieces of important legislation.
As a result of the hard work over the summer and fall by a bipartisan task force made up of Senate and House members, the Senate was able to work quickly to take the first step to address the huge unfunded liability in our public employee pension system.
The passage of SB 2, the first bill to be passed this session, creates a sustainable retirement benefit for state employees by requiring full funding of the actuarially-required contribution to the retirement system which will occur during next year’s biennial budget cycle.  In addition, it creates a new hybrid cash-balance plan for future employees and guarantees at least a 4 percent return on contributions.  Further, it allows the state employee to take any accrued funds with them if they change jobs.
It’s important to know the bill makes no changes to the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System, nor does it affect those currently employed.  And, it does not create a new tax on pension income of either private or public employees.  Lastly, if finances improve, the annual cost-of-living adjustment provided to retirees could be reinstated in future budgets.  This plan stops the digging and that is critical in order to maintain a solvent system.
On Wednesday, we participated in Right to Life Day in the Capital with concerned people of all ages coming together to champion the sanctity of life beginning with conception.   On this important occasion, it was appropriate we passed SB 4 requiring a doctor to meet face-to-face with a woman who is considering an abortion to provide her with information directly, rather than through a recorded phone message.  Also passed this week was SB 5, which I sponsored, directing the medical provider to offer a woman, prior to an abortion, the ultrasound image of her baby.  Since ultrasounds are normally taken before the procedure, the viewing would not be mandatory, but offered as informational.
Lastly, we heard from the Governor this week on his legislative priorities.  He seemed to indicate a need for more revenue, which, I am concerned, is another way of saying higher taxes.  While I am open to listening to other viewpoints, I am opposed to increasing taxes.  What we need is a tax code that will create jobs for a flourishing tax base.
With a few short weeks to go in this session, we’ll be busy again next week with a planned vote on SB8, a school safety bill, and SB 10 that places a ceiling on the state’s debt, among other bills.   I will keep you updated on the issues, but you can always contact me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or go to our website at www.lrc.ky.gov.