Stumbo: 11th Hour Pension Deal In The Works

Mar 25, 2013

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Legislative leaders are working on a potential deal that would use Road Fund revenue to shore up the financially troubled pension system for government retirees.

Democrat House Speaker Greg Stumbo (L) and Republican Senate President Robert Stivers (R).
Democrat House Speaker Greg Stumbo (L) and Republican Senate President Robert Stivers (R).

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Monday that the governor will personally present the proposal to House Democrats in a private meeting Monday afternoon.

"We'll see what the reaction is," Stumbo told reporters.

Restoring solvency to the pension system, which has a $33 billion unfunded liability, has been divisive for the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-led House that have been working on the issue since the Legislature convened in January.

The Senate has been insisting on a 401(k)-like retirement plan for new employees - a move the House opposes. Stumbo hinted Monday that the provision might remain a part of the overall proposal.

"I'm going to wait and let the governor explain that to the caucus so they can hear it first," Stumbo told reporters.

The House had pushed a plan that would use money from the lottery and horse tracks to generate more money for pensions. The latest proposal calls for diverting revenue from the Road Fund to pensions, a move that Stumbo said he has reservations about.

Lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Monday to try to complete efforts to shore up pensions. They have until midnight Tuesday to finish the work.

Beshear has been meeting with lawmakers over the past two weeks to find a way to resolve the pension problem.

The House had proposed a measure that would require the state lottery to add Keno and new online games to generate revenue for the pensions. House Democrats also called for tax revenue from slot-like devices called Instant Racing machines at horse tracks to be designated for pensions. Stumbo had said previously that those options could net $100 million a year, roughly the amount of additional money Kentucky needs to make its annual pension contribution.

In Kentucky, actual slots are banned, but two horse tracks have installed the Instant Racing machines. Players wager on the outcomes of past horse races, without knowing who won. The machines spawned a legal challenge that is pending before the Kentucky Supreme Court.