Jim Waters will be appearing on Louisville television’s WHAS-11 this evening at 5 p.m. to discuss the proposed state-wide smoking ban. Be sure to tune in!
A recent Letter to the Editor in the Corbin Times-Tribune takes aim at The Bluegrass Institute’s Jim Waters for his comments in a recent Bluegrass Beacon column discussing the Kentucky public pension crisis.
The column is based on a recent research report released by the institute, which can be read in its entirety here: “FUTURE SHOCK: Legislators stoking the coals on Kentucky’s runaway pension train”
While the passion of the letter is respected, the fact is that it misses the larger issue.
The Bluegrass Institute does not advocate:
- Revoking the pensions of current, active state workers. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The institute often notes that the commonwealth not only has a legal obligation but a moral responsibility to honor contracts made with both current workers and retirees.
- “Bashing” state workers. We have never blamed state workers for taking advantage of the benefits offered to them, whether it be days off or retirement plans. Our focus is on the fact that taxpayers can no longer afford to support such lavish pension plans, not the workers themselves who benefit from those plans.
- The idea that state workers don’t pay taxes.
- The Kentucky state pension system in its current form is completely unsustainable. As a result, we must consider more modest benefit packages for new state workers hired in the future. Our report (available at the link below) estimates that the state could save more than $635,000 on each “mid-management” career employee by switching to a 401(k)-style retirement plan.
- While state workers are indeed taxpayers whose taxes contribute to the pension system just like those without state jobs, the fact remains that the vast majority of the tax money that goes into the state retirement system fund comes from Kentuckians who are not state workers.
- The unfunded liability for Kentucky’s public pension system is $31 billion, not $19.2 billion as the authors of the letter claim. The pension deficit is documented in the annual reports supplied by the pension plans’ managing agencies. It’s their information, not ours.
The Bluegrass Institute agree with the letter’s authors that the integrity of the public pension system needs to be protected. In fact, our argument is that the integrity of the system is threatened by the unfunded liability and unsustainable nature of the system as it exists.
The system as it exists now also threatens the integrity of Kentucky’s economic viability. Serious reforms are a must.
Have you ever been in a position to speak with a state or local policy maker and wish you had more to say on economic issues? Have you wondered how to explain that Kentucky is in danger of going broke thanks to underfunded pensions, state institutions that overspend, and looming health policy mandates that pile on state debt?
The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solution is proud to announce an event designed to help you better communicate solid free market principles to legislators and stakeholders. To assist with this, we have enlisted an academic and university-based partner, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
The half-day seminar will include the following speakers:
- Mercatus Center Vice President and Former New Zealand Cabinet Minister Maurice McTigue on how to effectively streamline and seek efficiency in State Government
- Mercatus Center Senior Fellow Matthew Mitchell on the causes and solutions for excessive state spending, as well as
- Mercatus Center and BIPPS scholar Dr. John Garen on the impact of health policies like Medicaid on the state budget
The Seminar will be from 9:00am – 1:30 pm on Friday February 10th, 2012 at the Campbell House hotel at 1375 S. Broadway in Lexington. There is no charge to attend this event and lunch will be provided.
Many of your colleagues have expressed interest so make sure to RSVP early to ensure you have a seat for this educational seminar.
In his excellent and indepth reporting, the Lexington Herald-Leader’s John Cheves strengthens the case that the Bluegrass Institute has made since the day our doors opened: “Expanded gambling is a sorry excuse for the lack of a real economic development program.” From his report:
“Casinos will almost certainly increase your revenue to some extent. But there will be offsets and costs that you also need to consider,” said Alan Mallach, a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia.
Among their concerns, experts said, casinos cannibalize other forms of spending from which the states take a cut, from lottery tickets to gas and consumer goods. That cancels out some of the casino states’ financial gain.
“Casino gambling does not create a single new dollar. Every dollar dropped into a slot machine is a dollar not spent on something else,” Mallach said. “It’s not like you’ve got an auto plant and you’re building cars to be shipped and sold around the world.”
Richard Innes, staff education analyst at the Bluegrass Institute, presents a paper on pitfalls in interpreting the National Assessment of Educational Progress at the first international school choice and reform conference tomorrow.
This conference brings together education researchers from around the world who are working in the area of choice for K to 12 school systems.
A few of the topics to be discussed include:
• Digital learning developments in various countries around the world,
• Teacher union involvement in the choice issue,
• Charter school reactions to market and authorizer accountability demands,
• Impacts of an international education program in Canada,
• School choice overseas,
• Contributions and private religious schools contributions and concerns,
• Tools available from the National Center for Education Statistics, and
• Charter school performance in New Orleans.
Innes’ paper will be available following the conference, but you can get an advanced idea of what he will discuss by reading “The National Assessment of Educational Progress,” which is on line now in the freedomkentucky.org Wiki site.
The three-year battle for school choice between the Knox County and Corbin Independent school districts continues without resolution as the non-resident school agreement between the two systems festers into a third year.
At issue: should students who live on the border between the Knox and Corbin systems be allowed to enroll in either district?
For many years, the answer was an amicable “Yes.” With that amicable agreement in place, state support dollars followed the students to Corbin.
That changed in 2009 when Knox County got greedy. Knox wanted state school support money for students who lived in the county but chose to attend Corbin Independent instead. So, in an action that treated students like cattle, Knox cancelled its unrestricted transfer agreement in 2009. That set off a continuing battle of annual appeals going all the way to the Kentucky Department of Education for resolution.
So far, the department resolutions have been piecemeal, time-limited attempts that mostly just prolonged a status quo situation in the vain hope that the two school districts would work out something permanent on their own. That approach simply extended the fight.
It seems that greed too often beats reason every time in Kentucky school fights.
Throughout this feud, what worked best for the students – and Corbin works MUCH better for students – didn’t matter. For example, in 2011 testing of Kentucky 11th grade students with the ACT college entrance test, Corbin Independent students got an ACT Composite Score of 20.1, which ranks 18th best out of the 169 Kentucky school districts that have high schools. In sharp contrast, Knox County only scored a dismal 16.8, ranking far lower at 160 out of 169 districts.
So, it’s not about what is best for kids. It was, and remains, mostly a money fight.
If parents are willing to enroll their children across a district, and pay extra tuition for the privileged, why should they be denied that right?
This ongoing struggle needs resolution in favor of what is best for kids, not adults. If the Kentucky Department of Education lacks the determination to do what is right for kids, it is time for our legislature to finally step in and settle this dispute in favor of school choice. It is tiring to see educators viewing students as little more than dollar signs to be corralled into failing school systems. It is time for choice to create real competition that makes school systems like Knox either improve or go out of existence (for example, maybe the much better, education-oriented governance structure at the Corbin Independent schools should take over the entire county’s school system).