letter editor2 300MADISONVILLE, Ky. (10/12/18) — Election day is drawing nearer and the campaign signs are abounding. One sign recently caught my attention, as it declared simply, “Remember in November, KEA.” The political position advocated by this sign is presumably a call for voters to “vote out” the current state legislators who supported the state pension reform bill passed in the last session of the General Assembly, and now challenged in court by the Kentucky Attorney General.

This sign for me, however, carries a different call than the presumed intent of those posting them. I, too, am remembering, as I prepare to cast my ballot this Nov. 6. I am remembering the history of this matter of pensions for teachers and other government workers at state, county, and city levels. The most prominent feature that comes to my remembrance is the dereliction of duty by the Democratic controlled legislature and governorship, over the course of decades.

That dereliction included failing to make even the actuarial recommended funding for the pension plan year after year. This failure was compounded further by the Democrat controlled legislature actually robbing the funds that were there for general fund use, without repaying. When years ago it was becoming clear that the pension fund was bound for insolvency, the Democrats in control of the House and the governorship still failed year after year to fund for the budget year the recommended monies, much less deal with overall accumulated underfunding.

I remember talk of the problem, yet no action by the General Assembly nor any leadership from the governor’s office. I remember talk of Special Sessions after the regular session to address the pension problem, yet nothing was done.

Then in 2015, the citizens of Kentucky elected Republican Matt Bevin as Governor. Among his commitments was to address the pension issue, to work out a sustainable solution over time. Then in the 2016 election, for the first time in almost 100 years, the voters elected an overwhelmingly Republican House of Representatives to go along with a majority in the State Senate.

Though 2017 went by without effective action on the need for pension reform, some important strategies were emerging to be considered and refined. Then in the regular session of the 2018 General Assembly, a bill was passed and signed into law. That action has been challenged in the courts by Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, son of previous Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.

So, what I remember this November is that the current Republican legislative majority and governor made the recommended allocation for funding of the pension plan in the state budget for the first time in decades. I remember that all current retirees and current employees will retain the pension promised in their employment package with no substantive change, while instituting a new approach for retirement for new hires that is reputable and sustainable. A plan has also been put forth to shore up the funding of the failing pension program, a plan which will involve budgetary strain over a number of years ahead, but will secure the solvency of the pension fund.

As I remember this November, I will recall this history. In that remembrance, I will be strengthened in my conviction that it would make no sense at all to hand power in the legislature back to the party that for so long refused to honestly face the problems that they themselves created and which they further compounded by their inaction and breach of fiduciary responsibility.

Yes, remember in November, and reelect our Republican legislators.

Franklin Stevenson

Ward 5 Madisonville City Councilman

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