Recently, the Kentucky Supreme Court decided to overturn SB 151, a bill which would have greatly impacted the incredibly controversial and struggling Kentucky state employees’ retirement systems.
We have not issued an opinion on whether SB 151 or the Supreme Court’s decision were correct, and there’s a reason for that — even the experts are not of one mind on how to best fix the unfunded liability which exists in the system and it would be far out of our wheelhouse to make a recommendation either way.
What we are advocating for is that all parties who have decision-making capacity come together to find a solution which best protects both taxpayers and public employees.
Gov. Matt Bevin hastily called a special session which was ended by the Kentucky House of Representatives the next day with no resolution on the issue.
And we’re completely aghast at what’s happened since the Supreme Court’s decision was issued.
From the special session to the war of words which has ensued as a result of the issue, exactly none of it has gotten us any closer to where we need to be.
A special session, in and of itself, is a divisive proposition. It’s costly — with some estimates of this past week’s failure being a cost of more than $100,000. And, when a governor calls a special session, it’s almost always done in such a manner as to force their political opponents to come more close to their way of seeing things.
In other words, it’s almost always done to “throw down a gauntlet.”
The failed session did just that, and simply amplified and furthered the division already underway thanks to the words of key players. The special session simply took the wedge already inserted between the Democrats and the Republicans in state government and hammered it in further. Add to that the harsh words on both sides of the aisle which have been a result and you have a recipe for disaster.
The fact that Bevin would hastily call together a special session to attempt to force a decision on an issue on which there is little consensus, particularly between his party and the other side of the aisle is suspect. In other words, since we know compromise wasn’t likely, the only reason for the special session would have been to use the Republican Party’s majority in the legislative branch of government to make a decision that was not only done over the objections of the opposition but which would also be bulletproof and irreversible.
That effort failed.
Now, we’re at an even more divisive point going into the next session, which happens to dovetail with a gubernatorial and state government election which promises to draw those lines of division even more starkly.
In the rotunda of the Kentucky State Capitol, there is a statue of Henry Clay, known as “The Great Compromiser,” a great Kentuckian who served in several positions in the federal government but who had a reputation for being able to meet others in the middle when the public good was on the line. In other words, he acted like a statesman instead of a politician in many of his dealings.
And that’s what we need all those in state government in Kentucky to act like right now — statesmen, not politicians.
We recognize that the partisan rancor in Frankfort is older than the pension crisis, which is also not a new creation, and that it’s unfortunately a reflection of what’s happening at the federal level, as well.
But something has to change and it can’t just happen incrementally. The pension issue is too big and there is too much at stake.
Until we stop screaming at each other, no one can hear the solution, and the people of Kentucky will continue to suffer.