Task force looking at pensions

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Jimmy Higdon

State Senator

There’s been a lot of media attention lately, both locally and nationally, about states’ public pensions.

Kentucky isn’t immune to the pension issues many other states are facing.

The Commonwealth’s public pension systems administer retirement and retiree health benefits to more than 475,000 current and former employees. As of June 2011, the unfunded liability of those systems was more than $30 billion.

Analysts have blamed the ailing pension system on many different causes, including the economic recession that we’re just starting to crawl out of. But, while there may not be agreement yet on the exact cause of our pension deficit, it is obvious that something should be done to correct it.

But what?

That’s one of the questions we’ll answer in the new Kentucky Public Pensions Task Force, created with the approval of a resolution during the 2012 legislative session. I feel honored to be one of the dozen members of the committee.

We began meeting early in July and plan to present our conclusions on the best changes to the pension systems in a report by the end of the year.

We’re going to take an in-depth look at many issues surrounding the pension systems, including benefits, investments, funding and others. During our first meeting, we were given an overview of the current condition of the Kentucky Retirement Systems, including specific concerns about its long-term success. We also discussed how other states are dealing with the unfunded liabilities of their public pensions.

Going forward, we expect to get input from national public policy experts, including those from the Laura and John Arnold foundation and the PEW Center on the States. We also will hear from employees, employers and other interested parties before we decide what final recommendations we will make for the retirement systems.

I am interested in hearing from you, the people I serve as a senator. I understand that our pension systems impact nearly every one of you. Of course public employees are vested in the issue because their retirement plans hang in the balance of our decisions. But this also affects hard-working citizens in the private sector, whose tax dollars pay for these jobs. You deserve to have a say in how that money is spent.

Please let me know your thoughts and concerns on this or any issue facing our community and state.

You can reach my office in Frankfort at (502) 564-8100, my home in Lebanon at (270) 692-6945 or can email me at jimmy.higdon@lrc.ky.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.