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Government & Politics

West Kentucky Teachers to Bevin: 'Clean Up Your Rhetoric'

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin said he is ‘truly sorry’ for any hurt caused by the discourse over the pension issue. 

Bevin met with a group mostly comprised of angry and frustrated teachers (current and retired) at a ‘meet and greet’ session at the Robert O. Miller Center in downtown Murray on Monday. The event was part of a trip around the region.

Bevin's appearance comes about a week after a radio interview withWVLC in Campbellsville, where he said teachers were “selfish,” for opposing the Republican plan to overhaul the state’s pension system.

Elementary school teacher Gina Crider asked Bevin to make a pledge to ‘clean up his rhetoric.’ “I know you’ve talked yourself about bullying being an issue...and it is. How we speak to each other affects how we treat each other. So will you make a pledge, whether you think it’s misconstrued or not what people think about what you say, can you clean it up, sir?” said Crider.

Bevin said he didn’t intend for his statements to cause hurt and said it was a ‘misunderstanding.’ He asked teachers to take a similar pledge of cleaning up their rhetoric on social media. Crider agreed, adding that she has already asked the same of those who follow her online.

Many in the room confronted Bevin about his comments concerning teacher’s Cost-of-Living-Adjustments (COLAs). In his interview with WVLC, Bevin said “teachers are the only people to get raises after they retire.”

Several people in the crowd refuted this point, saying that anyone on social security also gets adjustments over time. Bevin stood by his original statements, adding that a COLA is a raise because “it is an increase in revenue.” He said he believes teachers should be able to draw social security, but stated several times that the Kentucky Education Association does not support it. Currently, Kentucky teachers (not including university faculty and staff) cannot draw social security for themselves or draw from their spouse’s after they die.

Several people in the room asked Bevin about alternative sources of revenue for the state that could help resolve the pension crisis.

Bevin would not name specific solutions and said the Kentucky legislature is responsible for tax policy. He said lawmakers know his preferred solutions and are working on them. “But in fairness to them, for me to tell them what they should do, when ultimately they have to take your voice, my voice and a whole lot of others into consideration, is to lead the witness in ways that are not always appropriate,” said Bevin.

Bevin said the state could create up to $1.4 billion in revenue if Kentucky aligned its tax forms with the federal government. He discussed tax reform plans in the 2017 State of the Commonwealth address.

"As to what is exempt and what is not exempt...what's tax deductible and what's not...if you literally just line it up with what you all do when you file your 10-40 every year, that difference alone would be between $1.3 and $1.4 billion dollars extra," said Bevin.

Others in the audience suggested legalizing gambling and recreational marijuana. Bevin said he would never sign a bill that legalized recreational marijuana, but added that if the public wanted it enough, it still could become a law without his support.

Bevin said he was raised and influenced by teachers and said the people who are upset are the same people who motivated him to run for governor in the first place. He said one of the main reasons he ran for governor was to fix the state’s pension system.

At the end of the ‘meet and greet,’ Bevin addressed the frustration with the proposed pension plan. He said, “I wish you had been this active and passionate and involved three or eight years ago...but I’m glad you are now because this is how change comes.”