Area legislators meet with public on state pension issues

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) — After the state had PFM Consulting analyze Kentucky’s pension system, the recommendation that followed caused many concerns.

State Representatives Jim DeCesare, Wilson Stone, Steve Riley, Michael Meredith, Jason Petrie, and House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne addressed the pressing issues regarding the state pension.

Bowling Green Fraternal Order of Police hosted the public meeting Wednesday night at South Warren High School.

State workers from law enforcement to firefighters, to teachers along with many others filled the room. An estimated 500 people attended concerned about the potential changes to their pensions.

“The age requirements, especially changing mid game, are concerning,” said Bowling Green Fire Chief Jason Colson.

People afraid because the PFM’s recommendations would cut back cost-of-living benefits for retirees. In addition, first responders would have to wait until they are 55 – 60 to retire. Teachers would also be affected in this realm.

“The idea that it could change in the middle is extremely scary,” says Derick Strode, Assistant Director of Academic Services at Gatton Academy.

The Bevin administration launched a website containing information on Kentucky’s pension crisis which led people to believe legislation was already put in place.

“There is a plan in place from our state’s leadership that does not support current state workers, or current individuals who have already retired,” says Strode.

The purpose of the public meeting was to address the unknown.

“It’s important that we dispel a lot of these rumors,” says Sgt. Shawn Helbig, President of the Bowling Green F.O.P.

State Reps spoke openly regarding their viewpoints.

“We got a pretty good assurance that they’re not going to affect the current employees, or the current retirees– that is extremely important,” says Helbig.

One factor made clear was something has to change due to the fiscal situation of the state.

“Nobody on our panel here tonight I think advocates doing nothing,” says State Rep. Wilson Stone, of the 22nd House District.

While reassuring to protect those already in the system, strategic adjustments likely to be made to new hires.

“We want the people who will come to work for the commonwealth later to come because there’s a good retirement connected to their service,” says State Rep. Stone.

However, there has not been official legislation on this matter released yet. Therefore, nothing has been decided.

“I think we’re still weeks away from a special session,” says State Rep. Stone.

Legislators say that impulsively retiring before any legislation is developed is far from the solution. The recommendation made by PFM Consulting was just a recommendation.

All in all, the area legislators addressing the crowd Wednesday night say they commit to stand by their constituents.

“At least these six representatives have made a commitment not to affect those who are currently retired or those that are currently in the system. They feel that the new changes need to affect the new hires,” says Helbig.

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