The Kentucky House budget committee has advanced a bill designed to provide extra revenues for the state's underfunded pension systems.
House Bill 416 would use revenues from the expansion of Instant Racing if the state Supreme Court upholds the legality of the game. It will also use expanded lottery sales and the proceeds from a new Keno game.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the bill does not ask lawmakers to legalize Instant Racing.
"We're simply saying if it is upheld, here is a fund that captures this money that's used to pay off this unfunded liability in our pension fund. So we're not asking you to vote to expand gaming," said Stumbo.
Lawmakers are looking to the lottery for a source of revenue to shore up Kentucky's financially troubled pension system for government retirees.
Rep. Brent Yonts, chairman of the House State Government Committee that oversees pensions, said Friday the latest proposal would institute a 6 percent sales tax on lottery ticket sales and implement new games, which could include Keno.
The Greenville Democrat said a lottery tax could generate $49 million a year and that adding more games could generate $70 million to $90 million. He said those actions could be enough to cover the state's full contribution to the pension system, which has a $33 billion unfunded liability.
Yonts' committee is scheduled to vote on pension legislation next Tuesday. The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee would vote separately on the lottery proposal.
Kentucky lawmakers have passed the halfway point in the current legislative session without a deal in sight to shore up the financially troubled pension system for government retirees.
They have only 14 working days remaining before adjourning for the year. However, Gov. Steve Beshear has said he may call lawmakers back into special session if they adjourn without taking action to bolster the pension system, which has a $33 billion unfunded liability.
The Senate passed a measure earlier this month that requires the state to fully fund the pension system but that did not specify where the money would come from.
The House is considering a variety of options to pay the state's contribution, including raising the cigarette to $1 a pack to generate about $100 million a year.
Kentucky legislative leaders say solutions on how to pay for Kentucky’s underfunded pensions won’t likely be addressed in the 2013 legislative session.
Both House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President Robert Stivers say there will likely be a bill to introduce changes to the pension systems. But they also agree that such a bill is unlikely to deal how to fund the changes.
What they disagree on is when to deal with the funding solutions. Stumbo says pension funding should be dealt with in a special session, hand in hand with tax reform.
“There’ll be a bill, I don’t know whether it will be addressed," Stumbo says. "I think that we need, probably, to address the entire issue and that include the funding mechanism."
But Stivers says lawmakers should pass the changes now and deal with fully funding the pension system starting in 2014, when a new budget must be passed.
Kentucky's state pension plans have problems, and a bipartisan legislative task force has approved sweeping recommendations to overhaul them -- including putting new employees in a hybrid plans akin to 401Ks.
The task force -- with an 11-1 vote -- is recommending that the General Assembly start fully funding their pension contributions starting with the next budget in 2014. Lawmakers’ inability to do that is part of the pension plans problems.