Our View: Working group gives hope of responsible pension reform

It comes as no surprise addressing Kentucky’s underfunded pension system would be a major priority in this year’s General Session.

While lawmakers announced earlier this week the top priority would be Senate Bill 1 which establishes a framework for school safety measures, the legislature also made steps to begin work on pension reform.

Friday, legislative leaders announced a working group that would study the pension system and make recommendations for improvements and changes by mid-February, leaving enough time to pass a pension reform bill before the session adjourns in March.

The Public Pensions Working Group  which was created by co-chairs of the Legislative Research Commission, will conduct a review of the systems’ structure, costs, benefits and funding. The first meeting of the 14-member group is set for Jan. 15.

We were fully expecting a pension reform bill that nearly mirrored last year’s SB 1 and SB 151 to be introduced within the first week of the session.

Thankfully, that is not the case.

Working groups of this sort have proven to introduce meaningful bills with greater public support for a number or reasons.

Most importantly, these work groups are made up of legislators from all across the state, from the House and the Senate, and of Republicans and Democrats. They are bipartisan by nature, with the group focused solely on learning more about how to pass a good bill to address an issue.

Additionally, these groups seek meaningful feedback from various stakeholders. For example, the work group established last year to address school safety spoke with teachers, students, law enforcement and more. Those conversations produced a comprehensive bill with largely bipartisan support.

We hope this pension reform working group will take a note from this example and seek out valuable information about how pension reform will impact current teachers, future educators, state employees, our first responders as well as the state’s budget, insurance bond rating, workforce and more.

Through those conversations and research, the group should be able to propose a bill that will put our state’s pension system on a firmer footing but that will also minimize the negative impacts to our valued school and state employees.

The General Assembly missed an opportunity last year to pass legalization that would have been fair but also financially responsible for the state. Those policy proposals were marred with controversy, illegally passed bills and an evident partisan divide in our state government.

Establishing this working group is a step in the right direction to ensuring we can pass pension reform this year in a legal, mature, responsible and beneficial way.