The Lexington Herald-Leader published an editorial which makes the case for opening up the books on public pensions to Kentucky’s taxpayers:
Simply put, Kentucky’s pension systems should be as transparent as the rest of state government. But they’re not.
At the most basic level, the lack of transparency keeps the public from knowing what level of pension benefits retirees are collecting from the six state pension systems. Before these folks retired, their salaries were a matter of public record. Why should the level of their pension benefits be different?
Public dollars, in the form of contributions from their government employers and their own contributions from their government salary, formed the foundation for their pensions. There’s no rational explanation for exempting the pension benefits built on this foundation from being subject to the Open Records Act, but they are.
Perhaps the best argument for transparency in pension benefits is the gift legislators gave themselves in 2005 that allows veteran lawmakers to leave office, get a high-paying public-sector job for as little as three years and use the average salary from those years to double, triple or even quadruple the pensions they built up as legislators.
This editorial is absolutely in-line with what the Bluegrass Institute has been advocating for quite some time through a variety of platforms:
- an introductory policy brief
- a detailed report about state legislators enriching their own pensions
- Jim Waters’ Bluegrass Beacon column
- and blog after blog after blog
Transparency is the first step toward accountability and the pension system is no exception.
In order to properly address the problems that Kentucky faces, we must clearly know what those problems are and how much of a threat they truly are. Without a thorough and complete view of how the pension system operates and distributes funds, true solutions can never be implemented.