Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Election, legislative pension bills advance

Bills that would disclose the value of state legislators’ public pensions and move the governor’s race to federal-election years were passed out of a Senate committee today.

Members of the Senate Standing Committee on State and Local Government unanimously voted for the legislative pension bill (Senate Bill 45) and the election cycle bill (Senate Bill 10).

Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, who sponsored both bills, said the pieces of legislation were designed to strengthen the public’s faith and increase citizen participation in the democratic process.

SB 45 would allow pension managers to disclose the name and benefit amount for any current or former lawmaker by making those figures subject to the state’s open records laws.

“The issue of pensions in the commonwealth have been shrouded in a level of secrecy that is unparalleled to elsewhere in state government,” McDaniel said, who is also a member of the committee. “This requirement will introduce a greater level of accountability to those of us who have to cast ballots on some of the most difficult, contentious and painful issues confronting us today.”

Legislative leaders say one of the greatest challenges of this session will be to find more money for the public pension systems. The systems carry more than $30 million in unfunded pension liabilities. State economists say the main pension plans for government workers and public school teacher are in the most trouble.

SB 10 is in the form of a constitutional amendment. It would move election for governor and other statewide constitutional officers to even-numbered years when congressional and presidential elections are held. If it passes the General Assembly, the proposed change to the state Constitution would appear on the November ballot.

McDaniel said SB 10 would save Kentucky $3.5 million and its 120 counties more than $14 million every four years by consolidating the dates elections are held. That translates to about $12,000 in savings to Crittenden County.

“When every level of government is struggling for funding, this is a simple way to save a significant amount of money,” McDaniel said.