Defying the vocal objections of teachers, Gov. Matt Bevin signed a bill into law Tuesday that makes changes to the state’s troubled public pension systems.
Bevin told 840 WHAS’s Terry Meiners on Tuesday that he had signed the pension reform bill into law. As Insider reported, while the bill was greatly watered down from his original pension proposal released last fall — he lobbied heavily for in the past several weeks, saying that it fulfills his pledge to save the underfunded pension system from imploding.
However, this pension bill — which had much of the language of the Senate Bill 1 on pensions inserted into Senate Bill 151 on sewage at the last minute — will now face a legal challenge by Attorney General Andy Beshear.
“Is the bill what it could have been and should have been and ultimately needs to be? No. Is it a very good bill in that there is nothing in it that is bad for Kentucky? Absolutely,” Bevin said.
Bevin vetoed the budget bill Monday, saying it didn’t make enough cuts.
Lawmakers had planned to restore much of the funding to public education that was cut in Bevin’s proposed budget.
The Jefferson County Teachers Association and the Kentucky Education Association said that funding is needed to provide the best opportunities for students.
“It’s a terrible decision on his part, but I’m not surprised,” JCTA Vice President Tammy Berlin said. “It’s going to be much harder to attract and retain great teachers for our kids.”
According to JCTA, current and retired teachers will not see any major changes. Their benefits are locked into an unbreakable contract.
However, Berlin said that the new pension bill affects future teachers, as lawmakers can change it at any time.
“Why would a teacher want to come to Kentucky, where they don’t have any idea what their retirement benefits are going to look like whenever they get to the end of their career,” Berlin said.
Teachers are mostly angry about how the bill was passed. Lawmakers introduced and passed the legislation in a single day, so fast the bill was not available for the public to read until after lawmakers had approved it. They also passed the bill without having a financial analysis of how it would affect the pension system, despite a state law requiring that.
“By signing this pension-sewage bill, Gov. Bevin and the Republican leadership have just dealt a devastating blow to Kentucky’s public education system, public employees, the teaching profession and benefits for first responders,” Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Ben Self said. “It’s obvious that their priorities are to the mega-donors who paid for their campaigns and not the people of Kentucky.”
“The other Democratic House members and I are deeply troubled by the signing of Senate Bill 151. This piece of legislation – written in secret and passed in less than nine hours – negatively impacts the retirement systems for teachers and public employees and is certain to be thrown out in court,” House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins said. “This law will also cost those very same taxpayers billions of dollars more over the next 30 years by resetting the time frame to pay off the state retirement systems’ liabilities. I cannot think of another law that will cost us more and provide us less than this one.”
Attorney General Beshear tweeted a response to the news: “We have just learned that Gov. Bevin has signed SB 151 (pensions). When the courts open tomorrow, we will take action. Stay tuned.”