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Pensioners Keep The Pressure On Policymakers

Josh James

Kentucky Public Retirees raised their voices in the Capitol Rotunda the day after Gov. Matt Bevin unveiled his strategy for keeping the state's pension systems solvent.

"The issue is not if two gay people want to get married in Rowan County. The issue is are we going to have enough money to pay our bills next year, all right?" KPR Vice President Jerry Connell told the tightly-packed crowd, many wearing matching shirts that read "We earned it."

Speakers described Bevin's initiatives as a "good first step" in a "make or break year," but called on legislators to keep the focus on digging the Kentucky Employee Retirement System out if its deepening multi-billion dollar hole.

The rally came on the heels of the passage of Senate Bill 2 out of committee. The high-priority measure sponsored by Sen. Joe Bowen aims to increase transparency for contracts and other transactions in the retirement systems while making gubernatorial appointees to the KRS board of trustees subject to Senate confirmation, among other provisions.

Credit Josh James / WUKY
Kentucky Retirement Systems Executive Director Bill Thielen testifies before a Senate committee on new pension oversight and transparency measure

Bowen said there's a sense of urgency behind the bill.

"This is the work of what the mood of the people across the Commonwealth of Kentucky is," the Owensboro Republican said. "They want accountability."

KRS executive director Bill Thielen issued a number of caveats, however, suggesting lawmakers are not entirely familiar with the complexity of the system in question and urging members to hold off until an audit is performed.

Adding new confirmation requirements for board members whose staggered terms begin at different times has the "potential to be very disruptive," he told reporters.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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