Bill aims to limit Kentucky lawmaker pensions

But it leaves the decision up to each legislator

By Kevin Wheatley, Published:

A bill that would allow lawmakers to base their legislative pensions solely on pay earned in the General Assembly cleared a Senate panel Wednesday.

Legislators could make such a voluntary, permanent choice under Senate Bill 4, which aims to undo “reciprocity” provisions passed in 2005 that allow lawmakers to base their pensions on pay from other, higher-salaried state or judicial positions. SB 4 would apply to former lawmakers and those already serving, though the bill would cover executive- and judicial-branch salaries earned before Jan. 1.

The Senate State and Local Government Committee passed the bill unanimously Wednesday. The Senate passed similar but mandatory legislation last year, but the bill did not get a hearing in the House State Government Committee.

Sen. Chris McDaniel, a Taylor Mill Republican and the sponsor of SB 4, said the bill represents “a fundamental matter of trust with the voters who send us here as public servants and expect us to spend their tax dollars wisely.” He said any forms signed by lawmakers opting out of the reciprocity provision would be public records.

“I would think, especially if someone intended to run for another office or had to stand for election, appointment, et cetera, that they would want it to be public record because I think this is a matter of public trust and people feeling like people should be in legislative service, not necessarily enriching their own benefits,” he said.

McDaniel said he had not talked with any House members about SB 4’s prospects in that chamber. He declined to speculate on how many would sign such a waiver if SB 4 passes, saying the legislation seems to affect dozens of current and former lawmakers.

“I would certainly think that anybody who wanted to stand for another election would find it to be an advantage to do so (sign the proposed waiver),” McDaniel said after the meeting.

The Senate State and Local Government Committee also passed Senate Bill 27, also sponsored by McDaniel, which would move elections for constitutional office to even-numbered years. Elected executive branch officials, such as Gov. Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway, would serve until 2016, when the next round of constitutional elections would begin under SB 27. 

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said the measure would improve voter turnout.

McDaniel estimated the state would save $3.5 million every four years, while counties would save $13.1 million in 2015 and $14.2 million in 2019, the next two rounds of state elections.

“In a time of tough budgets, when every level of government is struggling for funding, this is a simple way to save a significant amount of money for both the commonwealth and our counties,” McDaniel said during committee testimony.

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  • "Legislators could make such a voluntary, permanent choice under Senate Bill 4"  Humm...why not use the word used on regular citizens, mandatory!  Voluntary and choice isn't how other bills are presented.  When that word mandatory is used Sen. McDaniel, you'll then be serious about saving the state money.