Governor, changing, hiding pension scores won’t solve the problem

Published 11:17 am Monday, November 20, 2017

Look, we know Gov. Matt Bevin has had a tough time with his plan to upend public pensions in Kentucky.

But that’s not an excuse to rejigger the numbers from independent actuaries that make his plan look even worse than it already did.

Still, that’s just what he’s doing.

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A little background is in order.

It’s been one thing after another since Bevin and his chosen few emerged from deep seclusion with a 505-page bill that kept promises only to those who are bothered by secure retirements for public workers.

Almost no one really liked the plan, except those who had sworn allegiance before they even saw it.

Then, there turned out to be so many surprises in those hundreds of pages that people had to wonder who wrote the darn thing anyway. Once it became more or less clear what was in it, irate public employees and retirees showed up in droves, well-armed with information, at forums around the state. That made even Republican legislators nervous and they began doing a quiet shuffle away from Bevin’s plan. Then, a sexual harassment settlement involving GOP leadership in Frankfort threw things into further disarray.

Dropped into this toxic mix last week was an independent actuarial analysis, or scoring, that found Bevin’s “fix” for the Teachers Retirement System would cost the state $4.4 billion more over the next 20 years than sticking with the current approach.

Due up next was the scoring for the larger Kentucky Retirement Systems. But Monday Bevin’s budget director, who is on the Bevin-controlled KRS board (the Teachers board is more independent of the governor’s office), said that analysis would not be released publicly. At least not until after he and his staff had a chance to make changes to it.

As if that weren’t enough — the state pays for an independent analysis which is going to be hidden until, it seems, Bevin’s guys are able to make it look better — Bevin now also wants to recalculate the numbers on the Teachers Retirement System.

Governor, enough is enough.

This is too important. The pension systems are in crisis, a crisis that threatens the pensions promised to hundreds of thousands of Kentucky workers who put in their share every paycheck for decades. Left unsolved, as you have warned many times, it also threatens state government’s ability to provide even the most basic services.

You can’t solve it by wrangling the numbers to meet your expectations. Instead, give some thought to the advice from Republican state Rep. John “Bam” Carney of Campbellsville: “If we’re going to do this right, which we have to do this right, all information needs to be open so we can have a true dialogue with all stakeholders.”

Lexington Herald-Leader