State lawmakers voted to adjourn Tuesday.
(Frankfort, Ky.) - A special session of the Kentucky legislature is over without a vote on the commonwealth’s struggling pension system.
The General Assembly voted Tuesday night to end the surprise special session. Governor Matt Bevin had called lawmakers to session Monday night to try to force them to come up with a solution to shortfalls in the pension budget before the new legislative term begins in January.
Bevin called the move a financial blow to the commonwealth.
“For the sake of our financial future, we must believe and demand that the General Assembly will return to Frankfort in January with renewed focus and determination to fully address Kentucky’s pension crisis. I am grateful to those members of the General Assembly who came in good faith and attempted, over the past two days, to do the right thing. Despite the sincere efforts of many, the challenge still remains,” Bevin said.
“As Governor, I have been willing to be the standard bearer for this critical issue that our administration inherited from those previous governors and general assemblies that abdicated their responsibility to act. I cannot fix the pension system alone. I have done everything in my power to move Kentucky forward and find a solution to this looming crisis. If I had the authority to save the pension system, I would do so.”
House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne, a Republican, said the problem couldn't be solved in a five-day session.
Kentucky’s pension system is one of the most under-funded in the nation, with a deficit of around $40 billion for the benefits to be paid out over the next three decades.
Last week, the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the pension law was unconstitutional. Bevin said a pension solution could not wait until January with credit rating agencies considering downgrading Kentucky’s rating – a development which could cost taxpayers millions.
The legislature had passed a pension reform law, Senate Bill 151, last spring amid protests by teachers and other public employees across the state. The procedure used to pass the law was challenged by Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, who is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Bevin for governor.
“The governor’s attempt in the week before Christmas to cut the promised retirement of every teacher, police officer, firefighter, social worker, EMS and countless more public servants was wrong and cruel,” Beshear said in a statement. “Tonight, our values prevailed and partisanship took a backseat to what is right.”
Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler called Bevin’s special session a political circus. She released the following statement:
“Real leadership from these legislators demonstrates what our Commonwealth desperately needs: Serious and sober consideration for the rule of law. Real and effective solutions to our pension systems will not be solved by political games and chaos created by an ineffective executive, but by engaging in a democratic process that allows all who have a stake in it to be heard. That includes educators, police officers, firefighters, public employees and the taxpayers of Kentucky. It’s our hope that a unanimous rebuke by the state Supreme Court last week and an admonishment by legislators tonight will finally make that clear to the governor. Serious issues and solutions should be considered critically and deliberately. There is no room for shortcuts in democracy. It’s time the governor learned such an important lesson once and for all. It’s time he did what’s best for all Kentuckians, not just his own political agenda,” Winkler said.