By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service
State Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Latonia, wants to give his colleagues a “mulligan.”
McDaniel is sponsor of Senate Bill 64, which passed the state Senate Thursday on a unanimous 38-0 vote. The bill would allow lawmakers an opportunity to voluntarily “opt out” of a provision of their pension system that pads their retirement benefits.
The measure would undo a controversial provision in a bill passed in the closing hours of the 2005 General Assembly that allows lawmakers to take higher paying jobs but use their tenure in the legislature and its higher multiplying factor to calculate their retirement benefits.
It’s also a provision for which no one has ever claimed credit and is sometimes sarcastically referred to as the “orphan” provision.
Originally House Bill 299, the 2005 bill, was written to allow those who previously worked for the state’s universities or in other state jobs and were subsequently elected to the General Assembly to keep their earned retirement benefits from the previous employment.
But someone at some point in the last-minute negotiations between the House and Senate inserted language allowing all lawmakers to take advantage of the “reciprocity” provision and “super-size” their pensions.
Here’s how it works: a “part-time lawmaker” puts in several years in the legislature, banking time and also benefiting from the higher multiplying factor originally designed to offset lawmakers’ lower “part-time” salaries. But then the lawmaker resigns or retires and takes a much higher paying job in state government, usually either in the executive or judicial branches.
After a short period of time, the former lawmaker’s retirement is calculated on his new, much higher salary but multiplied by the higher factor as a legislator and by his years of service including his time in the General Assembly.
It’s become controversial and unpopular among the public. But no lawmaker has ever publicly acknowledged putting the provision in the bill or knowing it was in the bill when it passed.
“I think that’s a vote a lot of people would like to take back,” said Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, who voted against the 2005 measure while serving in the House. Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, was also in the House and voted against it in 2005.
McDaniel said his bill would allow lawmakers to “irrevocably” opt out of the provision and that if all 138 lawmakers did, it would save the state about $6.1 million over 20 years. He said that may not be a lot of money but it would be significant for taxpayers and voters who “expect us to be good stewards of their tax dollars and to be here to serve them, not to enrich ourselves.”
Sen. Bob Leeper, I-Paducah, voted against the bill in 2005 while in the Senate along with now retired Sen. Vernie McGaha, R-Russell Springs. But even Leeper said he was unaware of the specific benefits for lawmakers in the bill.
“The specifics — no I didn’t know,” Leeper said after Thursday’s vote. “But I caught wind there was something wrong about it.”
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said after the vote that this is the sixth time the Republican controlled Senate has passed such a measure but the House has never passed it.
“This is the sixth time we’ve given (the House) an opportunity to do something about it,” Stivers said.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.
By Ronnie Ellis
- State News
Healthcare signup in state extended
While the national health exchange established by the Affordable Care Act — known to some as Obamacare — suffered glitches, crashes and delays, the Kentucky-run exchange, Kynect, was often used as a national model.
Kentucky budget passed with little debate
The Kentucky General Assembly, divided between chambers along party lines, overwhelmingly passed a $20-billion, new two-year budget not only on time but with almost no debate.
Lawmakers agree on snow bill
Kentucky school officials, parents and students finally have what they’ve been asking for: A bill to allow them to get out of school before the summer fully sets in, even if they don’t make up some of the days they missed during the severe winter.
Tensions rise during budget negotiations
Tensions increased Friday between the Republican Senate and Democratic House over continuing negotiations on a new, two-year budget. It even got personal at times.
Kentucky Power plan a potential landscape-changer
Electrical ratepayers, local governments and those employed in the coal industry might have a hard time understanding the complicated transaction through which Kentucky Power Company is purchasing half the generating capacity of a coal-fired West Virginia plant.
Senate passes budget with no locked-in gas tax hikes
The state Senate on Tuesday passed its version of a two-year revenue measure, and unlike the House version, it does not lock in gas tax increases.
House passes bill aimed at saving Big Sandy Plant
Backers of a bill to require the Kentucky Public Service Commission to “reconsider” its previous order approving Kentucky Power’s purchase of a West Virginia generator say all they are asking “is for them to take a second look and look at all the facts.”
Judge: Companies can’t use eminent domain for pipeline project
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd on Tuesday ruled that companies building a natural gas liquids pipeline across parts of Kentucky cannot invoke eminent domain to force private property owners to provide easements.
Still no snow day solution from lawmakers
Senate and House negotiators, working on a bill to give school districts flexibility in making up snow days, each accused the other of moving the goal posts – but it’s the local school districts who may be penalized.
Senate sets budget with ‘wiggle room’
It was no surprise the Republican-controlled Kentucky state Senate altered the $20 billion, two-year state budget approved by the Democratic-controlled House, but there may have been a few who were surprised by how little it was changed.
- More State News Headlines
- Healthcare signup in state extended