Despite promises to call a special session addressing Kentucky’s pension problem throughout the year, Gov. Matt Bevin admitted Monday that the session may not be called in the final few weeks of 2017.
“There is nothing magical about getting it done on a particular date or a particular month, or whether it is a special session or not,” Bevin told reporters in an impromptu press conference, according to Kentucky Today. “Is it still possible? Yes. Will it happen? We’ll see.”
While Bevin had continually told media and state government officials that the session would commence, each month it has been pushed back. The session in question would be for legislature to vote on Bevin’s controversial proposal for pension reform, which would put new public employees and teachers into 401(k)-style savings plans after 27 years of service. However, teachers would be given a three-year option to remain in their traditional pensions.
Although Bevin has said his plan will put the Bluegrass State on track to fix its $40 billion-plus debts without breaking any promises to current employees or retirees, much of his 505-page bill has drawn the ire of many. The most heavily rebuked provision requires an additional 3% contribution from state and local government employees and teachers for retiree health benefits.
When asked specifically why the session may not happen in the coming weeks, Bevin pointed to a recent sexual harassment accusation involving a House GOP staffer and four representatives, including former Speaker Jeff Hoover, who resigned following the scandal’s reveal. However, Bevin remained optimistic.
“There’s absolutely a chance. It has been my intention without question,” he said.
Bevin’s adamancy for the special session has been in an effort to pass the reform bill before the regular session begins in January, when the state budget and tax reform will be discussed. He is also worried about a budget shortfall for the current fiscal year, about which he is expecting to hear more troublesome news on Friday, when the economist panel Consensus Forecasting Group meets.
“While I don’t have the ability to predict, it would be our expectations that we’re likely to see that it’s not the $150 [million] or $200 million [shortfall], that it’s even worse than that,” he said. “In the next six months, we’ll have to come up with another $250 million. That’s just for this year.”
Bevin said: “These things are imperative to be addressed. We are in dire straits financially.”