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Where State Lawmakers In West Kentucky Stand On Pension Reform Bill

Taylor Inman

There are no confirmed “yes” votes yet from state representatives in west Kentucky for Governor Matt Bevin’s proposed pension reform bill.

The lawmakers who said they are currently undecided, all said they have not had enough time to study the bill to make an informed decision. The bill was released on Friday.

Representative Steven Rudy, House District 1- Update 11/8: Rudy said in a text message following a pension forum in Paducah that he "cannot support the Governor's proposal as it's been presented" and would be willing to work with stakeholders to craft legislation that meets obligations to employees and retirees. He previosuly made comments in a Facebook post that he has been studying the issue and listening to constituents while “waiting for the actuarial analysis of the proposed legislation.” Rudy did not responded to multiple requests for comment by WKMS.

Representative Richard Heath, House District 2- Undecided. Heath said he met with educators in Graves, County on Monday. He said he took notes on their concerns which included the possible mass exodus of teachers, not being able to attract enough new teachers to their profession and the possible violation of the inviolable contract, which is part of a statute protecting pension benefits from reductions.

Representative Gerald Watkins, House District 3- No. Watkins said he would prefer cutting state tax exemptions and tackling tax reform to make up the revenue for pensions.

Representative Lynn Bechler, House District 4- Undecided. Bechler said he has questions about the bill but didn’t want to voice them until he had a chance to read the bill in full.

Representative Kenny Imes, House District 5- Undecided. Imes said after meeting with state workers last week, he is concerned with the possible mass exodus of teachers and "keeping the promises made to teachers and other state workers."

Representative Will Coursey, House District 6- No. Coursey released a statement regarding the bill on his Facebook page.

Representative Walker Thomas, House District 8- Undecided. Walker said he would like to see some changes to the bill after meeting with educators in Christian County on Monday. He said they were concerned with the additional 3% contribution they would make from their salary that would go to a retiree health program.

Representative Myron Dossett, House District 9- Awaiting response.

Representative Jim Gooch, House District 12- Undecided. Gooch said he would like to see some changes to the bill, including the additional 3% contribution state workers would pay to go towards a retiree health program. He said he would also like to see changes regarding the Cost Of Living Adjustments, or COLA in the bill.

Representative Melinda Gibbons Prunty, House District 15- Awaiting response.

Senator Stan Humphries, Senate District 1- Undecided. Humphries said he is open to the bill and is learning the details about how it will affect state workers in west Kentucky. He said he’s spoken with retired teacher groups and others who have reached out to him with concerns. He said the goal of the proposed changes should be as least impactful to state workers as possible, but something still has to be done to combat the financial crisis.  

Senator Danny Carroll, Senate District 2-  Undecided. Carroll said he is supportive of the structure of the proposed pension reform bill, but said it’s important to understand it’s only in draft form. He said he is awaiting calculations and further discussion before making a decision on his vote. Carroll said he would ultimately support a bill that doesn’t pass financial burden onto future generations.

Senator Whitney Westerfield, Senate District 3- Undecided. Westerfield said he’s held a town hall meeting in every county in his district and is continuing conversations with state workers. He said he’s passed concerns to leadership in the Senate and said “I haven’t been given a firm commitment on any of those, but I haven’t been shut down on them either.” Westerfield said there are some parts of the bill he would like to see changed, including the additional 3% insurance pay-in and the 100-hour cap on retirees that return to public service. He said he would be interested in seeing proposals that education groups have formed to counter Bevin’s bill.

Senator Dorsey Ridley, Senate District 4- No in it’s current form. Ridley said he expects parts of the bill to change, including the additional 3% insurance pay-in and the COLA freeze. He said he’s held town hall meetings and met with state workers to hear their concerns with the bill. Ridley said he would rather tackle pension reform in two bills rather than one, saying “all of these pensions are different and need to be addressed differently.” He suggested giving teachers their own pension reform bill because they cannot receive social security like other state workers. He said the time to get the bill passed in 2017 is eroding, and would encourage leadership in the state congress to only focus on tax reform, pension reform, biennial budget and the road fund budget in 2018.

This story will be updated. 

Taylor is a recent Murray State University graduate where she studied journalism and history. When she's not reporting for WKMS, she enjoys creative writing and traveling. She loves writing stories that involve diversity, local culture and history, nature and recreation, art and music, and national or local politics. If you have a news tip or idea, shoot her an email at!
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