We’re pretty sure the news isn’t supposed to work like this: The Courier-Journal’s best columnist (who isn’t a staffer, but works on contract) writing about the most important, sensational issue in Kentucky … and quoting niche political news sources.
Because they’re the only ones covering the most important, sensational issue in Kentucky.
Yesterday, John David Dyche wrote a stunning column, “Bill gave Kentucky Legislators ‘super-sized’ pensions.”
Dyche’s column explains to CJ readers (for the first time, by the way) how the General Assembly pulled the most expensive fast one in Kentucky history, voting themselves the right to triple-dip on state pensions, with individual totals running into the millions!
Writing about the most timely issue in Kentucky – this matters because state employee pensions are insolvent to the tune of $30 billion – Dyche cites research not from the CJ or from the Lexington Herald-Leader, the state’s two largest daily newspapers, but from Kentucky Gazette, which in turn posted the original investigation from Lowell Reese at Kentucky Roll Call.
What is the Kentucky Gazette?
We’re not exactly sure, but it appears to be a conservative-skewed, insider’s source for political news. We love it because one contributor – Randy Patrick – wrote a post outlining what lobbyists hauled off during the last General Assembly, including Bob Babbage, also a Gazette contributor.
Now, that’s fair and balanced reporting!
(Full disclosure: I’m a Jewish Rockefeller Republican masquerading as a liberal, and NOT a political junkie, so everyone who cares probably knows about the Kentucky Gazette. Also, IL has tried – and will try – to woo away Dyche from the CJ.)
From Dyche’s column yesterterday:
“In 1998,” Reese explains, “legislators quietly voted to give themselves a second pension in the retirement system for state employees.” It triggers automatically when a legislator “maxes out” the legislative pension, i.e., becomes eligible to draw 100 percent of legislative salary upon retiring. Seven current legislators savor this second pension: Sens. Walter Blevins and Dan Seum, and Reps. Tom Burch, Danny Ford, Jody Richards, Tom Riner and Greg Stumbo.
Former Democratic legislator Harry Moberly Jr., a recently retired vice president at Eastern Kentucky University, voted for HB 299 and will get “an estimated lifetime windfall of at least $2.6 million” from his legislative pension. Former Democratic Rep. J.R. Gray, who became labor secretary after voting for HB 299, stands to reap an estimated $1.2 million in additional lifetime pension benefits. Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who was attorney general when HB 299 passed, nonetheless gets an estimated $1.25 million more in lifetime pension benefits.
Among Republicans, former state Sen. Charlie Borders voted for HB 299 before Gov. Steve Beshear appointed him to the Public Service Commission. This not only opened up a seat that a Democrat won, but netted Borders an expected additional $737,516 in future pension checks, Reese reports. Dan Kelly was Senate Republican floor leader who helped HB 299 sail through. Beshear made him a circuit judge, which Reese calculates as worth an expected $645,000 in additional lifetime legislative pension benefits, not including nearly $900,000 in judicial pension benefits. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a Republican state representative who voted for HB 299, will get an estimated lifetime windfall of at least $467,906, according to Reese.
Dyche ends the column with this ironic exit graph:
Twenty-four representatives and 10 senators who voted for HB 299 are seeking re-election this November. Remember this as you examine your 401(k) statement in October. And thank Lowell Reese.
So, we’ll ask you the question pension whistleblower Chris Tobe always asks us: Where are the conventional media on this story, a story that would have won the CJ a Pulitzer in the old days?
We’re going to guess they were out covering Barbara Shanklin.