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  • Recommendations for a taxpayer-friendly COVID-19 legislative finale offering promise for post-virus recovery
    With the Kentucky General Assembly returning to its work today, the Bluegrass Institute urges legislators to make their sole constitutional obligation of passing a balanced budget their top priority. Now isn’t the time to raise taxes and increase spending. There will already be enough of that occurring at both the federal and state levels to… […]
  • Lawmakers give teachers’ pension fund an extra $1B instead of awarding it to ailing KERS
    The Kentucky Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee led by Chairman Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, recently unveiled its version of the KY budget for the next two fiscal years. Despite what the teachers’ unions and media would have you believe, the Senate version of the budget fully funded the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) with no strings attached.… […]
  • Bluegrass Beacon: Quasi-pension bill good but Kentucky Senate could make it great
    Legislation passed by the Kentucky House of Representatives intended to provide long-term relief from steep increases in pension payments faced by quasi-government agencies like regional universities, health departments and rape crisis centers represents small steps in the right direction. However, the Kentucky Senate, which now will consider House Bill 171 (HB 171), could turn this… […]
  • Sarah Durand’s Testimony on HB 484
    Yesterday, Government Affairs Director Sarah Durand testified against a policy that would establish a new pension board for the County Employees Retirement System (CERS) separate from the current Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS) board. While still keeping all the pension risk with taxpayers, it removes taxpayer representation in CERS pension policy and is expected to cost… […]
  • Bill to change the KY constitution
    HB 475 filed in this 2020 session of the General Assembly proposes a change to the Constitution of Kentucky to allow cities, counties and towns to impose and collect local taxes. This bill, often referred to as a local option sales tax, specifically, removes the following language from the Kentucky Constitution: “and may, by general… […]
  • Bluegrass Beacon: Pension contract inviolable, not inflexible
    Legislators campaigning to hold on to their seats may be jittery about dealing with controversial pension reform, but the problems plaguing the state’s retirement systems don’t hibernate just because there’s an election. Despite record amounts of funding in recent years, the ailing Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) is saddled with $14.5 billion worth of liabilities, remains… […]
  • Bluegrass Beacon: Will Beshear consider ‘common goals’ of non-teaching taxpayers?
    Editor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute’s website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide. The following column is an updated version of a recent column published by newspapers statewide. Governor Andy Beshear and First Lady Britainy Beshear held a poster contest as part… […]
  • Much needed resolutions for pension reform in the new year
      1. Implement a TRS hybrid plan for new teachers. Teachers should have access to a defined benefit plan that’s safe, dependable and designed for the workforce of 2020 and beyond. Taxpayers also deserve to have safeguards in place to protect them from the poor decisions of the past that have resulted in a debt… […]
  • Beshear should end pension spiking for legislators who join his team
    Gov.-elect Andy Beshear has selected longtime state Rep. Rocky Adkins as his senior adviser. Will Beshear follow the lead of outgoing Gov. Matt Bevin, who, according to administration officials, required legislators appointed to positions in his administration to forego using the salaries earned in their executive positions to spike their legislative pensions? Adkins finished second… […]
  • Bluegrass Institute commends progress toward increased KRS investment transparency
    For Immediate Release: Tuesday, October 8, 2019 (FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The Bluegrass Institute Pension Reform Team issued the following statement in response to the Public Pension Oversight Board’s recent discussion regarding transparency of Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS) investment fees, which included a presentation by State Auditor Mike Harmon.  The Bluegrass Institute has always been a… […]

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BIPPS on Pensions

The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s first and only free-market think tank, is asking all candidates campaigning for General Assembly seats during this fall’s election to pledge support for bringing a greater level of transparency to Kentucky’s troubled public pension system.

The Institute recently sent – and asks all incumbents and challengers to sign – an 84-word pledge vowing to back “making the Kentucky Retirement Systems, Teachers’ Retirement System and Judicial Form Retirement System fully transparent, including requiring the disclosure of names, status and projected actual retirement benefits and benefit payments from the Kentucky Employees Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System, State Police Retirement System, County Employees Retirement System and Judicial Retirement Plan.”

For much of the past decade, the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions has led from the forefront of pension reform in the commonwealth of Kentucky. “Future Shock,”1 the institute’s groundbreaking four-part series released in 2011 and 2012, warned that without meaningful reforms, the pension liability would engulf Kentucky’s entire economy. In a column published by the Bluegrass Institute on March 26, 2013, the late Lowell Reese, an esteemed journalist, publisher and former Chamber of Commerce executive, urged policymakers to take seriously the need to address the commonwealth’s deepening pension crisis. “The soaring cost of public employee pensions in Kentucky has become a major societal issue,” said Reese, who authored the “Future Shock” series. “The standard of living of all Kentuckians is at stake.”

The pension and healthcare funds for government employees in Kentucky — the state-administered pension systems — are in significant financial stress. The unfunded liabilities stand at $31 billion. Public employee pensions in Kentucky are badly draining the budgets of city and county governments, dipping into the budget of the commonwealth as never before, pushing up the state’s debt level while pulling down its credit rating. The pension obligations are on the brink of dramatically crowding out funds for essential government services such as public safety and education.

“Kentucky’s pension records are not subject to the open records law,” wrote Lowell Reese in Sunday’s Courier-Journal “They are shrouded in secrecy.”

Reese, publisher of Kentucky Roll Call, also authored “Future Shock,” a series of Bluegrass Institute reports on Kentucky’s public-pension crisis.

The final of those reports offers 16 solutions for lawmakers to consider in fixing the pension system. No. 1 on the list: transparency.

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