A new pension bill has been drafted for Kentucky lawmakers to start reviewing ahead of a special legislative session aimed at helping some state-funded agencies struggling with ballooning retirement payments, Gov. Matt Bevin said Tuesday.
Bevin hasn't said when he'll call lawmakers back to the state Capitol in Frankfort to consider the administration measure that's meant to give regional universities, county health departments, rape crisis centers and many other agencies relief from a looming spike in pension costs on July 1.
In an interview Tuesday on Cadiz radio station WKDZ, Bevin said the bill has been drafted and undergone a fiscal review.
"It's being presented to all of the legislators now, so that in the days following Derby, we'll call that special session," he said. "Exactly when, we'll figure that out. But we want to make sure that we get it done long in advance of July 1 so that we can get this resolved."
Bevin was referring to the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
The Republican governor surprised lawmakers when he recently vetoed legislation aimed at giving pension relief to many quasi-governmental agencies and regional universities. The vetoed measure passed the GOP-dominated legislature on the final day of this year's regular session. As a result, lawmakers had no chance to consider overriding the veto.
The vetoed bill offered pension relief by letting the agencies keep their pension system contribution rates much lower as they gradually buy their way out of the state retirement system. Bevin said he vetoed the measure because it had some flaws.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said Tuesday he would like to see the special session start "sooner than later," once the governor has lined up support for the measure.
"There's a lot of uncertainty out there with the universities and the quasi-governmental agencies," the Republican lawmaker said in a phone interview. "And the sooner that we can provide them certainty, the better."
Kentucky has one of the worst-funded pension systems in the country, but Bevin has had a turbulent time in trying to revamp it.
He called lawmakers back to the Capitol in December to vote on a much broader pension bill that had been struck down by Kentucky's Supreme Court. Lawmakers adjourned without passing any legislation. Taxpayers were left with a bill of about $120,000 for the two-day session.
Thayer and another key Republican lawmaker on Tuesday praised the Bevin administration's efforts to avoid a repeat of last year's failed special session.
"There's pretty good evidence that the administration is working in good faith to develop a bill and build support for it," Thayer said.
Following the veto, top lawmakers said it was up to Bevin to craft the new bill and line up legislative support. House Majority Floor Leader John "Bam" Carney said Tuesday that the governor has been heeding those requests.
House Republican members started receiving an overview of the bill Tuesday, he said.
"I think right now they're doing a lot of things that they need to be doing," Carney said by phone.
Bevin also said Tuesday that he had briefed university presidents about the bill, news outlets reported.