March 5, 2013 — FRANKFORT - Gov. Steve Beshear held out hope Tuesday that lawmakers can still find a compromise solution to the state’s badly underfunded employee pension funds in the waning days of the 30-day General Assembly.
But he all but said he’s prepared to call a special session later this year if there is no compromise.
“The short session isn’t really designed for big, complex issues,” Beshear said. “Nevertheless, both houses have tackled this because they are committed to finding a solution and they are committed to finding a solution.”
Short sessions in odd-numbered years were designed to deal with non-budget issues which come up between the 60-day budget sessions in even numbered years. As an incentive to voters to approve annual sessions in 2,000, the constitutional amendment required any funding or revenue bills to receive a three-fifths vote of each chamber — 60 votes in the 100-member House and 23 in the 38-member Senate.
“We eventually will resolve this (pension) issue,” Beshear said. “Whether it’s resolved in this current session or not I think is still up in the air. But one way or another this year, we’re going to resolve this pension issue.”
If it’s not resolved in the current General Assembly, the only other way to do it this year is through a special session. Only the governor can call such a special and he has enormous control over special sessions because he sets the agenda and lawmakers can only consider that agenda during a special session.
Beshear applauded the work of both chambers thus far. (The Senate passed a reform package based on recommendations of a bi-partisan task force, but the Senate measure provides no funding for the annually required contribution or ARC to the system by the legislature.
(The House re-wrote the Senate bill, taking out a hybrid, cash-balance plan for new employees and replacing it with a defined benefit plan similar to current employees’ and retiree’s benefits. But the House passed a separate bill to fund the ARC through an elaborate system of using lottery growth funds and money from instant racing. The Senate has refused to consider that bill.)