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Governor calls special legislative session to address Kentucky's pension crisis

The session began in Frankfort on Monday night.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Governor Matt Bevin has called a special legislative session to address Kentucky's pension crisis.

That session will be held in Frankfort at 8 p.m. tonight, December 17.

Kentucky has one of the worst-funded pension systems in the country. The state is at least $38 billion short of the money required to pay benefits over the next three decades.

Click here to follow our reporters live tweeting from Frankfort, KY

Bevin did not say what the legislature would be voting on.

Governor Bevin released the following statement:

"Today, I am convening the General Assembly into special session to enact vital legislation that will be a meaningful first step toward shoring up our dying pension system. We stand at the threshold of financial failure. That is not acceptable.

Kentucky's pension crisis represents the single greatest threat to the long-term financial health of the Commonwealth. Last week's decision by the Supreme Court to strike down SB 151, based solely on process, and with utter disregard for legal precedent and the separation of powers, has only served to create further uncertainty, fear and the likelihood of financial insolvency. Only the General Assembly has the authority and responsibility to pass laws to fix this pension debacle.

For the sake of all current and future Kentuckians, the legislature must act immediately before the Commonwealth incurs further credit downgrades that will cost tens of millions of dollars for taxpayers and further limit the Commonwealth's ability to pay for essential services, including education and healthcare. I am confident that the General Assembly can, and will, do exactly that.

The elected lawmakers of Kentucky have a moral and legal responsibility to save the pension system from collapsing so that we can deliver on the promises made to our public employees.

The next generation is depending on the legislators of today to take swift, decisive action that will place Kentucky on solid financial footing. Time is not our ally.

The entire executive branch stands willing to assist the legislative effort in any way possible. I know that we can work together to save Kentucky's pension system. We must not fail. We are Kentucky."

After the governor called the special session, the Kentucky Democratic Party released the following statement:

“That Governor Bevin would call a Special Session just a few weeks before the 2019 General Assembly convenes is an unbelievable waste of taxpayer resources. Governor Bevin’s political stunt—which will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars—is a slap in the face to hardworking Kentuckians.” 

Kentucky Democratic House Leader Rocky Adkins released the following statement:

“The governor’s actions today are appalling. Neither I nor any member of the House Democratic Caucus was consulted or even given a courtesy call that this was happening, and many of our members are unable to make it tonight. To expect legislators to be in the Capitol literally hours after calling a special session – especially during the holidays and three weeks before the next regular session – is the most short-sighted and unnecessary action I have ever seen a governor make. This is nothing more than a continued mockery of the legislative process and an attempt to silence the public. This is a sad day for the people of Kentucky.” 

Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler released the following statement:

“Today’s announcement from Governor Bevin is nothing but a reactionary public temper tantrum from the Commonwealth’s highest elected official. 

Our state’s financial future will never improve if we keep wasting tax payer dollars on governing “around” the people instead of ‘with’ them.

“Trying to repeat the same mistakes of the last legislative session is not in the best interests of our public employees, their families, or the communities they serve. 

“Attempting to pass a massive pension reform package the week before Christmas, when a regular legislative session is just 22 days way, is not only irresponsible but disingenuous. The thousands of dollars it takes to pay for a special session is a waste of the same tax dollars Governor Bevin constantly harps about saving. The only reason to have a special session is to avoid having to get the 60 votes necessary in a regular session, to pass any bill that includes appropriations. Any bill that impacts so many should have fiscal impact studies done and public comment periods made available for citizens to weigh in. Without the input of those who are directly affected by any new pension legislation, this governor again shows his contempt for the democratic process and the voters of Kentucky.

“The Supreme Court unanimously agreed that the way to do business is to follow the Kentucky Constitution. Not one citizen has seen a copy of any bill that will be dealt with in this special session. If the Governor thinks he can be a bully in this state to so many that serve the public, he is sadly mistaken.

The only reason why our pension systems have had any financial challenges is because the systems have not been funded by previous legislatures and Governors as well as economic downturns in the markets.”

“KEA and its partners will never give up the fight for what is right. We are asking the citizens of the Commonwealth to contact their legislators and voice their opposition to this irresponsible plan. We call on legislators and leadership to assert their independence and end this politically motivated charade and gavel out until the regularly scheduled session begins on January 8.”


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