Dave Adkisson

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The head of Kentucky’s Chamber of Commerce says he’s not giving up hopes that lawmakers will fix the state’s troubled pension systems.

Dave Adkisson says his group was disappointed that the recent General Assembly failed to pass both a $3.3 billion dollar bond issue to support the pension fund for teachers, and a bill mandating an independent study of that program.

Adkisson says legislators must eventually act in order to protect not only pensioners, but also the state’s bond rating.

“If Western Kentucky University is building a new building, if you’re building a new city hall, a new courthouse, a new highway, a new dormitory—those things can cost more because the bonds are lower-rates, and the interest rates are higher.”

The teacher’s pension system only has 53-percent of the money it needs to make future payouts to about 141,000 retired teachers. Earlier this year, KTRS officials said if bonds weren’t issued, the state’s required contributions to the system would double by 2026.

Adkisson, a former mayor of Owensboro, also said Tuesday that he hopes the state’s next governor will stick with changes made to Kentucky’s academic standards.

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce wants a full performance audit of the troubled Kentucky Retirement Systems.

Chamber President Dave Adkisson Thursday called on state Auditor Adam Edelen to look into KRS, which is rated as one of the most underfunded pension plans in the nation, with only about 45-percent of the assets needed to cover its retirement obligations.

Adkisson said his group is especially concerned about the burden placed on the actuary who advises the system.

“The assumptions they make lead to KRS recommendations, and a request for money that goes to the Governor,” Adkisson said during a conference call with reporters. “The Governor has to utilize that information to build his budget that goes to the legislature, and all of this is predicated on the assumptions of one actuary. And KTRS, the teachers’ retirement system, uses the same actuary.”

Adkisson says a KRS audit should also look into the amount of investment fees paid by the system, and how that compares to other states. An estimated 30-percent of KRS investments are held in hedge funds and private equity funds, which charge high fees and whose holdings KRS agrees not to reveal.

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is taking a firmer stand on conservative issues. Republican legislators have criticized the chamber in the past for supporting Democratic-led proposals like expanded gambling and a higher dropout age while staying quiet on so-called right to work and prevailing wage laws.