Louisville Forum Holds Debate for Solutions to Kentucky's Public Pension Problem

Pension crisis discussion at Louisville forum

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS) -- Kentucky's pension system is regarded as one of the worst-funded in the country, and it could be undergoing major changes soon as the legislature looks to finding a solution for the state's pension problem.

"Kentucky has $31.2 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, and the state's various pension funds have 37.4 percent of the money they need to make payments to current and future retirees," Louisville Forum President Greg Condra said.

The pension crisis is a topic that has captured the attention of Kentuckians as they await for possible legislative action coming out of Frankfort. About a week earlier, state workers rallied in Louisville to keep their pension plans. This Wednesday, the Louisville Forum held its own discussion about the subject, with one side arguing for an overhaul of the system.

"The single most important thing that we can do is to ensure that we solve this predicament once and for all, not that we pass a plan and do things to put band-aids on this, but that we solve this once and for all," Jordan Harris with the Pegasus Institute said.

The Forum also welcomed the other side of the debate, which argued against sweeping reform, rather calling for changes to parts of the system to make sure it is adequately funded.

"We're really talking about a plan that does little to nothing to reduce the existing unfunded pension liabilities that we have to pay, which is the major problem we have to deal with," Jason Bailey with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy said.

An independent consultant earlier this year recommended a new retirement system that would cut benefits and move public workers from their current defined benefit plan to a 401k-style defined contribution plan.

"They make rational choices and no one faults them," Harris said. "But it's equally true that no one would design a system that works this way. This system we've inherited is not one you'd put in place in your private businesses, and most businesses have chosen not to."

But many public workers have argued against a 401k-type plan, claiming such a change would hurt them and their industry.

"It's especially more expensive for teachers. Teachers are not on Social Security," Bailey said. "To move teachers into Social Security would cost more in and of itself than the existing defned benefits plan they offer, plus we'll be matching a 401k."

Gov. Matt Bevin is expected to call a special legislative session at some point in the near future to address the pension problem.

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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