Now that the State Government Committee has approved legislation containing policies that bring more transparency to the Bluegrass State’s troubled pension system, we could have a vote by the full Kentucky House of Representatives when it convenes at 4 p.m. (eastern) today.
Despite chairman Brent Yonts’ anti-transparency stance, his committee has sent Senate bills 2 and 45, sponsored by Sens. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, and Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, respectively, to the full House.
While these bills represent only the beginning of bringing full transparency to our taxpayer-funded public retirement systems, they take significant steps in the right direction.
Both bills received unanimous 38-0 votes in the state Senate, which means that each state senator – Democrat and Republican – voted to bring more transparency to the system.
The policy contained in Senate Bill 2 would shine the light on pension investment fees and costs, hold the commonwealth’s public pension systems more accountable in how they contract with third parties for services and ensure their governing boards have members with investment experience.
Senate Bill 45 answers the Bluegrass Institute’s clarion call to make legislators’ pensions transparent and open the door to making pension benefits of all state employees subject to open records’ request, which state law incredulously currently prohibits.
“Most of the money that goes into our pension fund comes from taxpayers’ contributions – from the employer contribution; we as employees do put some money into our pensions but it really pales in comparison to the amount that the employer puts in,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, in a Pure Politics forum on Kentucky’s pension system.
Several other legislators participated in that forum, including Yonts, D-Greenville, who defended the status quo, restating his philosophy that “when one retires, whether you be in the legislature, teachers’ retirement, KERS or whatever system it is and you’re no longer a public person, that information ought to be hard to get or confidential.”
But Thayer responded that “as elected officials we have an obligation to our constituents and the taxpayers across Kentucky – for them to know what our retirement is.”
He’s right, and so is state Treasurer Allison Ball, who recently issued a strong statement calling upon the House to do its part to make the public pension system transparent.
“One of the major issues holding Kentucky back is transparency in government spending,” said Ball, who garnered the most votes of any statewide candidate on November’s ballot.
“Every budget year it’s the same thing, we lack vital information about government spending,” she said.
He said all current and former members of the legislature “should be subject to full transparency to the taxpayers on our pensions.”
Taxpayers and voters: Let your legislators in Frankfort know today that you support making Kentucky’s public-pension systems transparent, beginning with legislators.
To contact your legislator, call toll-free (800) 372-7181. You do not have to have to know the name of your legislator. You only need to give your name, address and question. It will then be forwarded to those legislators that represent your area of Kentucky.