Chris Tobe's interview with WKU Public Radio about the harsh reality facing Kentucky's pension programs
Chris Tobe is a man who is currently playing the role of “bearer of bad news.”
He worked as a trustee with the Kentucky Retirement Systems from 2008 to 2012, where he got an up-close-and-personal look at how the state’s pension systems were being underfunded. Tobe is also the author of the book Kentucky Fried Pensions, and he makes presentations around the state detailing the crisis facing the commonwealth’s pension programs.
While Gov. Steve Beshear and state lawmakers from both parties have hailed pension reform efforts passed in 2013, Tobe says it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed to fix the underfunding issue.
Compared to the rest of the nation, Tobe believes “Kentucky is probably second worst to Illinois” when it comes to the health of its public pension programs.
House members have begun the process of evaluating and modifying the spending plan proposed by Governor Beshear.
Longtime Elizabethtown Representative Jimmie Lee chairs the human services subcommittee. He worries about under-served areas in the budget like guardianship and protection programs in the Department of Community Based Services.
“This is a really difficult budget to balance because we have so many needs,” said Lee. "There’s just not any dollars in that budget available that’s readily seen as you go through the numbers. It’s been the governor pretty efficient on the allocating and using what available dollars was there. He didn’t leave us much to work with.”
Lee says legislators could look to the Affordable Care Act to produce some savings, but those prospects remain uncertain.
“It’s gonna be one that we count on the ACA. helping us and that’s kind of taking the crystal ball and saying yes I believe the ACA will produce these kind of savings for us and you book those numbers. Now, whether or not it does, that’s another thing,” said Lee.
Lee says he will be meeting with overall budget chair Representative Rick Rand to determine how all pieces of the two-year plan can fit together. A House vote on the state budget is likely still a couple of weeks away.
An employee with the Legislative Research Commission has been fired after appearing in an online video in support of a Democratic Senatorial candidate.
The Courier-Journal reports that Charles Booker, 29, lost his job yesterday as an analyst for the Government Contract Review Committee. Booker appeared in a video for Alison Lundergun Grimes, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Mitch McConnell.
In the video, Booker’s wife accuses McConnell of being out of touch with poor Kentuckians. Booker appears briefly in the video and makes a few comments about western Louisville.
LRC personnel policy prohibits employees from taking part in partisan political activity.
The Kentucky Historical Society has approved a proposed highway marker to honor country music legend Louis "Grandpa" Jones at his birthplace.
Linda Hallmark, vice-president of the Henderson County Historical and Genealogical Society, says the approval will allow the group to start fundraising for the project, which is expected to cost about $2,500.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul will make an appearance Wednesday before a state Senate committee to support a proposed constitutional amendment that would restore voting rights for some felons.
The proposal has won House approval and is being considered by the State and Local Government Committee. Paul's office said Republican Joe Bowen, the committee chairman, invited Paul to testify.
Paul, a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2016, has urged passage of the measure, saying voting rights are "sacred."
If approved, the measure would go on Kentucky's November ballot. Voters would decide whether to amend the state constitution to automatically restore voting rights for some felons who completed their sentences and terms of probation.
Felons now can have their right to vote restored in Kentucky by petitioning the governor.
The Bowling Green Independent School District Monday night introduced new elements in their ongoing negotiations with the Warren County School District over the number of non-city residents who can attend city schools.
The school systems don't have an agreement about how many county-resident students the city will accept, and are trying to reach a contract under orders from Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday.
The Bowling Green Daily News reports the city's plan includes a reduction from 750 non-resident students to 650 over ten years. Non-resident students would be admitted on a first come, first served basis. Siblings of students would be admitted, 60% of the remaining spots would be filled by kindergarteners based on application date, and the final 40% on grades 1 - 12 based on date of application.
The non-resident agreement is key to a school district receiving Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) funding for out-of-district students.
Construction remains on schedule at the new Motorsports Park adjacent to the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. Mitch Wright, general manager of the Motorsports Park says any concerns related to the sinkhole that opened up inside the museum last week we’re actually addressed months ago.
“We did have some sinkholes on the property, which we have remediated. We had quite a bit of geotech work done prior to the construction starting," said Wright. “We’re pretty confident we found what we needed to find and we’re going to have a fantastic facility for people to enjoy.”
He says crews are making progress with underground work right now, and pavement will be put down in the spring. The Motorsports Park is scheduled for completion in August.
Tea Party groups from across the south and midwest are pledging support in the effort to defeat Republican Senator Mitch McConnell.
The five-term Kentucky incumbent is facing a primary challenge from Louisville businessman and Tea Party activist Matt Bevin.
United Kentucky Tea Party spokesman Scott Hofstra told WKU Public Radio activists from several states have promised to help Bevin win this spring's primary.
“We have had commitments now from Tea Party and liberty groups from Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, and as far away as Florida, who have said, ‘We are going to send folks to Kentucky, at our expense, to help you on the ground get out the vote for Matt Bevin'", the Hardin County resident said.
Hofstra admits McConnell has gained many Republican allies at the local level in Kentucky during his nearly 30 years in office.