Kentucky Governor Calls Surprise Special Session To Address Pension Problem

Teachers and public employee unions across the state are furious about the hasty action to reform the commonwealth's pension system.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. Photo by Gage Skidmore; courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

(Frankfort, Ky.) - Kentucky's legislature is meeting in a special session to deal with the state's struggling pension system.

Governor Matt Bevin made the surprise announcement Monday afternoon, giving lawmakers short notice that the session would convene at 8:00 p.m. last night.

"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," Bevin said.

The move came just four days after the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down Senate Bill 151, the legislature's controversial pension overhaul plan passed in the last days of the 2018 regular session last spring.

Kentucky’s public employee pension is about $40 billion underfunded for the money it needs to pay out benefits over the next 30 years.

“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,” said Bevin.

Kentucky House Speaker designate David Osborne said his Republican caucus stands willing to lead on “the critical issues facing Kentucky.”

But Democrats are lamenting the special session. House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins said no member of the Democratic caucus was consulted or given advanced notice of the special session, making it tough for members to get to the Statehouse by Monday night.

"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," Adkins said.

Lawmakers are not the only ones who scrambled to get to the state capitol. Teachers, public workers, and their supporters are protesting the hastily called special session of the legislature.

The state’s largest teachers union, the Kentucky Education Association, equated Bevin’s special session to "the state's most expensive temper tantrum."

"Trying to repeat the same mistakes as the last legislative session is not in the best interest in 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 away, is not only irresponsible. It is disingenuous," said KEA president Stephanie Winkler.

No progress was made during Monday evening’s meeting of lawmakers. They will be back in session Tuesday.

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