Bevin Says Teachers Wrong To Oppose Pension Overhaul

Mar 7, 2018

Credit Ryland Barton

Gov. Matt Bevin says teachers are wrongfully attacking him for pushing to overhaul the state’s ailing pension systems, saying they’re either “ill-informed or willfully blind.”

The comment came in response to an angry group of educators who protested a state Senate committee’s passage of a bill that cuts benefits for retired public school teachers.

Though Bevin hasn’t explicitly endorsed the Senate plan, he said teachers should appreciate his approach to fix the public worker retirement programs.

“The reality is this: I’m saving the pension system. If they’re upset about it, it’s because they’re either ill-informed or willfully blind,” Bevin said after a rally in Versailles.

“I think the vast majority of teachers are none of the above. They’re very aware of the fact that they want a pension. Their leadership has reasons for fomenting things, God bless ‘em. But I’m still going to save the pension whether they like it or not.”

Bevin has proposed a variety of changes, including moving most future and some current state workers — including teachers — into 401k-style retirement plans.

Currently teachers receive defined benefit pensions that guarantee benefits from the point of retirement until death and state workers hired since 2014 receive “hybrid” plans that are more generous than traditional 401ks.

But Bevin’s plan — unveiled last fall — stalled after widespread pushback from state worker groups.

Republican leaders of the legislature have put forward another plan that would move future state workers and teachers into the “hybrid” plans, though a less-generous version of the ones currently offered to state employees.

That version, which passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday, would also cut annual cost of living adjustments for retired teachers from 1.5 percent to one percent until the teachers’ pension system is 90 percent funded. It’s currently 56 percent funded.

Bevin wouldn’t say if he supports the measure.

“You don’t sign a bill until it’s actually put in front of you,” Bevin said. “I’ve met with House and Senate leadership this morning, we’ve been having a lot of good dialogue, I’m pleased with the progression that we’re making. We’ll get this done, it’s just a function of what it’ll look like when we get there.”

When lawmakers unveiled the new plan last month, they said the governor’s office was kept informed about the pension bill discussions, but it was written independently by lawmakers.

Republican Sen. Joe Bowen, who sponsored the bill, said it would save the state about $3.2 billion over the next 20 years. The unfunded liability of the pension system is estimated to be about $40 billion.