Bevin says he’s agreed to changes to his pension proposal

June 3, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signaled on Monday that he has agreed to changes to his pension-relief plan as he continues trying to win enough support to take up the measure in a special legislative session this month.

The Republican governor has worked for weeks trying to build support for his proposal in the GOP-led legislature. Bevin didn’t indicate when he might call lawmakers back to the state Capitol to deal with the issue, but said he has agreed to revisions to his plan. The proposal aims to provide relief for some state-funded agencies struggling with surging retirement payments.

“It’s been amended on a number of fronts,” the governor said. “We’ve actually made changes to accommodate some of the things that people say they’d like to see.”

Bevin didn’t offer specifics. The governor is grappling with the politically treacherous pension issue as he seeks reelection this year. Bevin is being challenged by his political nemesis, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, in the November election.

Bevin’s proposal would replace a pension measure that he vetoed in April after lawmakers ended this year’s regular legislative session. Top lawmakers, caught off guard by the veto, have said it’s up to Bevin to line up support for his plan.

Unless action is taken, regional universities as well as county health departments, rape crisis centers and many other quasi-governmental agencies face ballooning pension costs on July 1. State leaders worry that inaction would strain the quasi-public agencies and lead to some bankruptcies, elimination of staff and loss of critical services for Kentuckians.

Asked Monday if he’s any closer to getting the support needed for his plan, Bevin replied: “I don’t get to decide where legislators’ heads are. They decide for themselves. If we don’t get this passed, there is going to be a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering among our regional universities and our health organizations and other quasis. That’s just the sad reality of it.”

Meanwhile, the chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees told reporters Monday that they have not been involved in tracking the vote counts.

“I’m really not sure where their vote tally lies because as we’ve made pretty clear, the governor had specific actions he wanted to see taken and so it’s up to his office to get and count the votes,” Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel said.

Republican Rep. Steven Rudy said he doesn’t know the status of Bevin’s plan with the House but if the governor calls lawmakers into a special session, “we’ll show up and do our job.”

Both said they recognize the financial pressures faced by the regional universities and quasi-agencies due to sharply rising pension costs.

“It’s got to get fixed, for the fiscal health of the commonwealth and for the health of these agencies that we count on to provide so many of these services,” McDaniel said.

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