Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has signed into law a pension bill aimed at relieving regional universities and community social services agencies from crushing retirement costs.
The signing ceremony on Wednesday came a couple of hours after the bill won final passage in the Senate. Bevin was joined by lawmakers and stakeholder groups at the signing.
The Republican governor called lawmakers into a special session last Friday to take up his pension proposal. The bill — reflecting Bevin's plan — narrowly passed the GOP-led House on Monday and won overwhelming support in the Republican-dominated Senate.
The bill aims to relieve regional universities and quasi-governmental entities from massive increases in pension costs.
The measure won’t eliminate pension benefits for workers, but will encourage agencies that exit the system to cap employees’ benefits and move them into 401k-type plans on a going forward basis. It does not require employers to make contributions to 401ks.
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, a Republican from Georgetown, accused Democrats of spreading rumors about destroying the pension system in order to rally up opponents.
“It’s a red herring, a ruse. Something to get the attention of groups not even affected by this bill and to attempt to fire them up here in the middle of the summer against this bill,” Thayer said.
Republicans say that the state is allowed to alter pension benefits for workers on a going-forward basis.
Bevin said Wednesday afternoon that the measure is the first step towards more sweeping pension reform.
“This is one step toward financial solvency. But there will have to be more steps. We don’t even know fully what they will be. Some of them will be determined by the impact of the steps taken thus far,” Bevin said.
Jim Carroll, president of the Kentucky Government Employees advocacy group, said the bill “assaults the contract rights of dedicated public employees.”
“We will stand in solidarity with affected employees when guaranteed benefits are terminated next year and this matter is litigated. We will expect the Kentucky Retirement Systems board of trustees to fulfill its fiduciary duty to its members by joining in any such litigation,” Carroll said.
Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear has also threatened to sue over the legislation, saying that Bevin’s proclamation that called the special session prevented lawmakers from considering other proposals.
This story has been updated.