Lawmakers and citizens met this weekend in Murray State’s Wrather Auditorium to discuss Kentucky’s ongoing pension crises. Cameron Smith of the Alabama Policy Institute gave a presentation explaining Kentucky’s current pension problems while lawmakers answered questions. Smith said it’s important for the state to keep its promises.
“Kentucky’s Employee’s Retirement system, non hazardous sector, has fallen from 125 percent funded in 2001 to about 33 percent funded today," Smith said. "A huge reason for this is that the General Assembly has failed to fully fund its retirement obligations 12 out of 17 years.”
State Representative Brent Yonts of Greenville is co-chair of the Kentucky General Assembly’s State Government Committee. He said the state’s pension is not going to solve itself.
“Someone asked me what bills have I filed," Yonts said. "I said I haven’t got a clue, because all I’m eating and dreaming and thinking about is pensions. This is like a 3,000 piece jagged jigsaw puzzle and all the parts are black.”
Republican State Representative Kenny Imes of Murray heard from concerned teachers and state workers. He said the state’s pensions must be addressed as soon as possible.
“It affects a lot of people’s lives and it ultimately affects every tax payer in Kentucky," Imes said. " So It’s got to be dealt with professionally. It’s got to be dealt with in a fair and equitable manner. You know that’s our job to do it.”
He said the state’s pension system is no where close to being as stable as it needs to be.
“My service a long time ago doesn’t even fit the needs," Imes said. "I mean the state had the money and we could do things and we were caught up with it. And all this has occurred in just a relatively short time and because of the national economy and all It’s severally impacted it. And its stuff that we should have addressed before then, but now we have to. You have to give it your best shot.”
The Kentucky Senate passed S-B-2 last week, which would fund pensions through 2015 and is now headed to the House. Currently Kentucky Retirement Systems has almost $18 billion in unfunded liabilities.