Policy: Entitlements

Kentucky Senate OKs change to rein in 'supersized' legislative pensions

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Politics,Associated Press,Watchdog,Kentucky,Entitlements,Follow the Money,Pensions

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Senate voted Thursday to rein in a nearly decade-old law that has allowed legislative pensions to be "supersized" when lawmakers land higher-paying government jobs.

The measure would allow lawmakers to opt out of a provision of a 2005 state law that can significantly pad their legislative pensions by taking plum judicial or executive branch posts.

It passed the Senate on a 38-0 vote and now goes to the House.

Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel, the bill's lead sponsor, said it would fix "some of the most egregious provisions" of the 2005 law, which allows legislative pensions to be "supersized."

Under the bill, lawmakers could make a one-time, irrevocable decision to have their legislative pensions calculated solely on their legislative salaries, McDaniel said. That would prevent their pensions from getting a big boost by being calculated on any future government jobs they might take, he said.

The measure deals with "a fundamental matter of trust" with voters, who expect lawmakers to serve the public, "not to enrich ourselves," McDaniel said.

"This is a matter of doing the right thing," McDaniel said.

Several lawmakers have taken advantage of the 2005 provision to boost their legislative pensions.

"I think that's a vote a lot of people would take back," Republican Sen. Jimmy Higdon said of the 2005 law.

Higdon was a member of the House at the time, and said he voted against the 2005 measure.

The proposed fix to the embattled pension provision could eventually save the state about $6 million, based an actuarial analysis, supporters said.

Senate President Robert Stivers urged the House to pass the bill and resolve the long-simmering issue.

"This is the sixth time the Senate has tried to give the House an alternative to do something that we have been criticized for for many years," Stivers said. "But it seems to fall on deaf ears down in the House."

Stivers said if the bill becomes law, he would be among those opting out of the 2005 provision, meaning his legislative pension would be calculated solely on his service in the General Assembly.

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