Gov. Matt Bevin said Thursday that it was regrettable that public pension reform was not accomplished this year but expected it would be addressed early in the legislative session that begins Jan. 2.
The Republican governor, who held a news conference in the Capitol to discuss his administration’s key initiatives and accomplishments of the year like a record year for capital investment, also left the door open for a re-election campaign in 2019.
“We’ll see,” said the governor, who is halfway through his first four-year term, when asked if he planned to seek a second term.
He had strong words for a possible opponent in the next race for governor, Democrat Attorney General Andy Beshear, saying he does not take him seriously. The two have had major legal skirmishes in their first two years in office.
Beshear responded: “All I have ever asked is that the governor follow the law. Given we are four days from Christmas, I had hoped the governor could rise above name calling and personal attacks.”
Bevin had hoped to call a special legislative session this calendar year to address the state’s financially strapped public pension systems that he said could be as much as $50 billion to $80 billion in debt.
He said Thursday that it was logistically impossible now to have a special session on pension reform this year.
It was possible to have one this week, he said, but he noted the disruption in the House in recent weeks, apparently referring to sexual misconduct scandals.
Bevin said he believes House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, R-Prospect, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, want to deal with pension reform as quickly as possible.
He did not mention Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, who said in early November that he was going to step down as House speaker in the wake of a secret sexual harassment settlement with a staffer.
Bevin has called for Hoover’s resignation from the legislature. Hoover has maintained he never sexually harassed anyone and has not yet officially resigned as speaker. Some House members are trying to keep him on as the chamber’s top leader.
Bevin said he expects lawmakers will deal with pension reform before they craft a two-year state budget that he predicted will be “a doozy” because of insufficient funds. A minimum of an extra $2 billion is needed to address the state’s needs, he said.
A reduction plan to deal with an expected shortfall of about $156 million this current fiscal year will be announced soon, the governor said.