General Assembly: Retirement system is top item according to Turner
By BILL MARDIS, Editor Emeritus Commonwealth Journal
Discussions about the financial plight of Kentucky Retirement Systems may take up most of the 30-day session of the General Assembly that convenes January 8, according to veteran State Rep. Tommy Turner. This is the short session of the Legislature that happens every other year.
Turner, who represents the 85th Legislative District, most of which is in Pulaski County, says how much in arrears the retirement systems are depends on with whom you talk. Financial advisers talk in billions.
Gov. Steve Beshear has said the state may be able to find funds through tax reform, but he is unwilling to use money for education or other areas to pay for pensions. Turner says tax reform may be discussed.
“Part of the problem is people are living longer. State employees used to retire at 50 and die about 65. Now, they retire at 50 and live to 85 ... they are drawing pensions 30 to 40 years,” Turner said. The other part of the problem is that the state has not funded the retirement systems as it should.
Turner believes the system can be fixed. Current state employees and retirees must be paid “ ... we promised them,” he said. However, it may be new state hires have something like a 401(k) plan,” he suggested.
Called "defined contribution plans," 401(k)s are deducted from paychecks before taxes and then taxed when a withdrawal is made from the 401(k) account. Depending on the employer's program, a portion of the employee's contribution may be matched by the employer.
Turner expects little or nothing to be done about redistricting during this short session. He suggested the governor may call a special session to redistrict as required after the 2010 federal census.
The governor apparently thinks less politics would be involved during a special session, Turner indicated. Initial redistricting, called gerrymandering by some, was declared void by the courts and the state is divided by realignments done following the 2000 census.
Little or nothing specific is on the plate for Pulaski County during the upcoming legislative session, Turner said. He expressed doubt that state assistance for a discussed hotel adjoining The Center for Rural Development will gain much foothold.
“I don’t see that happening, not in this economy,” Turner said.