Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin answered questions from Ballard County residents Thursday at a Town Hall meeting in Kevil.
The room was quiet at the start of the meeting, leaving Bevin to talk about pensions, ‘right-to-work’ and other issues for nearly an hour before someone asked a question. Bevin also addressed economic development in Ballard County and challenges to the pension reform bill passed last spring.
Defending The Pension Reform Bill
Bevin spent much of the meeting defending the controversial pension reform bill passed in the spring that has drawn mass protests by teachers and state workers. A Franklin County Circuit Court Judge ruled the bill was unconstitutional in June after the bill was rushed to passage by tacking it on to a wastewater bill.
A member of the town hall crowd asked Bevin if he would continue to fight for the pension reform bill if it was deemed unconstitutional, saying “so you’re just going to give up?” Bevin said continuing the fight for pension reform was left up to the state’s legislators.
“It’s not what I do, it’s what our legislature does...” Bevin said. “And what do you think their appetite is to go back to that bill? I think they’ve given Kentucky a fighting chance and they’ve been bashed over the head for it.”
Bevin directed the man’s question to Republican State Senator Danny Carroll, who was also present at the town hall meeting. Carroll said, “Am I looking forward to it? No, but it’s going to have to be done- I don’t think there’s any choice there to be had. Now, will we reassess and perhaps look at other issues related to retirement as the governor spoke about? I don’t know. But, the basic bill that was passed has to be reinitiated should it be overturned.”
Economic Development In Ballard Co.
Bevin touted ‘right-to-work’ and his administration's efforts of attracting business to the region while discussing the reopening of the paper mill in Wickliffe. Ballard County Judge/Executive Todd Cooper asked Bevin if his county should consider joining the economic development collaborative Kentucky United. Bevin said he doesn’t want to promote any one particular pathway to economic development, but suggested looking at what resources Ballard County has to “determine to get the best return for their money.”
“That’s a tough thing in a cash-strapped county. How many folks-- 8,000 folks in Ballard County? So this is not a county that is rich in resources,” Bevin said.
Bevin said creating industrial parks will not always yield a good return on investment. He said having land that is “site-ready” but not completely developed is a good option for small communities. He went on to credit controversial ‘right-to-work’ legislation for attracting business to the state since its passage in 2017.
Bevin’s Plan To Reach Teachers
When asked how he plans to reach teachers and public workers who have felt alienated by him over the past year, Bevin told WKMS he believes the choice will “be simple” for voters by next year. He said a lot of the alienation has come from “confusion, anger and concern.”
“I think as people realize that I’m the only governor who has tried to save this pension system, that has called attention to the state of its condition and that I’ve fully funded it,” Bevin said. “...When it comes down to it, they’re going to have a choice. And whoever it is who will be on the other side, but next May there will be ‘this person or the other,’ and people will have to ask who they trust… who would they rather have taking care of things on their behalf. It will end up being a simpler choice than it seems right now for folks.”