FRANKFORT, Ky. — Education groups pushed for Democratic teacher candidates during 2018’s election so they could lead the way on pension reform. Two newly elected state representatives who happen to be in education have now filed a pension bill.

They happen to be Republicans and they’re two of the newest faces in the House, but current Rockcastle Teacher Representative Travis Brenda and former Superintendent Representative Scott Lewis are about to become names known across the state.

They’ve cosponsored H.B. 504, a pension reform bill that focuses on teacher retirements. Early indications are the plan has support.

 “We feel pretty good going forward on this plan,” Rep. Scott Lewis (R-District 14) said.

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 Lewis feels it could help with the pension crisis.

“Well, preliminary scoring of it was $335 million savings to the state over a 20-year period which I think scores similar to the one that was tried to pass last year,” Lewis said.

Here’s how the bill breaks down:

  • Current employees and retirees are not included.
  • Only teachers hired after next Jan. 1 would be involved.
  • It raises the retirement age to 55.
  • Access to health insurance is unchanged.
  • It is considered a “defined benefit,” guaranteeing teachers money in retirement.

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“It actually is a defined benefit and it has a supplemental piece to it too that the state and employee would contribute but the employee could actually put more money into it on their own which we don’t have now so they could actually grow that piece if they wanted to retire at a certain age. They could put a little more money in that, so we think it’s a benefit now that someone like myself would like to see on ours that we don’t have,” Lewis said.

Lewis feels it is a huge difference from what is currently offered.

 “It saves going forward, a preliminary 335 million over, over, a twenty-year period,” Lewis said.

Teacher groups protested by the thousands in 2018 but this time there appears to be cautious optimism as they wait to see how the plan moves forward.

KE President Stephanie Winkler described H.B. 504 as “more palatable” than previous plans.

She doesn’t see increasing the retirement age as a deal breaker.

“The average retirement age right now is 56 so it’s not unreasonable,” Winkler said.

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She and Jefferson County Teachers Association President Brent McKim applauded the move to keep a defined benefit plan.

“I think all of the stakeholder groups, the K groups and myself, have had a conversation with the bill sponsor. I think he listened and tried to build a bill that included a lot of stakeholder input,” McKim said.

The fact that both sponsors are educators appears to have played a major role in the bill’s early acceptance. But until hearings we won’t know whether it’s a deal that can pass both the House and Senate with only 14 days left in the session. Hearings could begin as soon as next week.

►Contact reporter Chris Williams at cwilliams@whas11.com. Follow him on Twitter (@chriswnews) and Facebook.