FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) — Flustered by the magnitude of Kentucky’s public pension crisis, lawmakers abruptly concluded a special legislative session on Tuesday, opting to return home without making needed financial repairs.
Kentucky’s retirement systems have long been among the worst-funded in the nation, needing some $43 billion to be restored to solvency.
Lawmakers had passed a law earlier this year to funnel more money into the retirement systems. But last week, the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down that law on procedural grounds.
Republican Gov. Matt Bevin summoned lawmakers back to Frankfort on Monday to make fixes that would appease justices. But after meeting with Republican legislative leaders, the governor said he was convinced lawmakers weren’t prepared to take the necessary action.
Bevin and House Speaker-Elect David Osborne said lawmakers will tackle the issue in a legislative session set to begin on Jan. 8.
Osborne said 14 percent of the state’s General Fund budget is now needed to begin paying off the unfunded liability of the state’s eight public pension plans.
“It has become clear that we need to bring this special session to a close,” Osborne said to a burst of cheers from the House gallery, where teachers and other public employees were gathered.
The Senate adjourned shortly after the House.
“We came in here hoping that we could find a quick resolution to this, a quick solution,” Osborne said. “It didn’t happen.”
Bevin said he was saddened to hear teachers and other public employees cheer when lawmakers voted to conclude the special session.
“It honestly makes me sad when I hear people celebrate and dance upon their own financial grave,” he said.
Not everyone was upset by the sudden adjournment.
Attorney General Andy Beshear, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in the May primary, charged that Bevin was attempting to cut retirement benefits a week before Christmas. He called the attempt “wrong and cruel.”
“Tonight, our values prevailed and partisanship took a backseat to what is right,” Beshear said.