FRANKFORT — Gov. Matt Bevin told House Democratic leaders their approach to providing relief to quasi-governmental agencies from soaring pension costs would “kick the can of financial responsibility down the road … again.”
In a sharply-worded two-page letter to the three leaders, Bevin described a letter he received from them Monday offering to meet and discuss the problem as “silly and unbecoming of the offices you hold.”
Both sides agree to one thing: that legislation ought to be passed in special session before July 1 when local health departments, regional universities and other quasi-governmental agencies face an increase of about 70% in the already-high pension costs they must pay.
Bevin has said he will call a session if lawmakers agree to pass his bill that would freeze the current rate for another year and also address the problem on a long-term basis by offering the groups options to pay up their liabilities and get out of the troubled state pension plans.
But he has not been able to garner enough votes to pass his bill. Some Republican legislators and nearly all Democrats oppose it — partly over complicated provisions affecting benefits of employees of groups that may opt to leave the state pension plan.
House Democratic leaders Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook, Joni Jenkins of Shively, and Derrick Graham of Frankfort, said in their letter to Bevin on Monday that his proposal “is too risky and could be more harmful than helpful to both taxpayers and thousands of public employees and retirees.”
The Democrats said that in order to reach a sound, bipartisan solution, “the General Assembly first needs to be called in to enact a one-year contribution rate freeze for the affected agencies and regional universities.”
But Bevin said in his response, this approach is irresponsible and inflicts more financial damage on the state’s troubled pension plan.
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Later Wednesday, the three Democrats responded with a letter to Bevin saying their invitation to meet with him was never meant to be tied to him first calling a session to pass only a one-year freeze on pension rates for the affected groups.
And they asked again to meet with Bevin because they said there is not enough support to pass the governor’s plan and agreement on some solution must be found quickly to avoid deep cuts in services provided by the affected groups if the higher rates take effect July 1.