September 1, 2014

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Sen. Katie Stine reviews Kentucky congressional week

Greetings and best wishes for a new year! A new year also marks a new season in our state capital. On Tuesday, January 8th, the Senate convened for the 2013 General Assembly Session, a session that will last 30 days. The first week is traditionally an “organizational” week in which the respective caucuses choose their leaders and committee assignments are disbursed to members. In the Senate, we have already done this. I am pleased to continue my service as president pro-tem. I will also serve as vice-chair of the Committee on Committees, the Judiciary Committee, the Legislative Research Commission, and the Rules Committee. I will be a member of Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor Committee, the Health and Welfare Committee, and the Enrollment Committee.

The 2013 Session is technically a “short” one but it surely will not be short on issues. While odd-year sessions are not typically budget years, there are several issues that could affect budget-planning.  First and foremost is the issue of public employee pension reform. The public employee pension system is only about 26% funded which represents a $33 billion unfunded liability. (Please note that teachers’ retirement is entirely different and these discussions do not apply to it.)  The Senate since 2005 has tried to encourage the House to address this issue. I am hopeful that the findings of the recently formed task force that met over the interim which heard from a diverse group of advocates and experts such as state employees, business groups, and the Pew Center will finally encourage the House to act. One of the principle recommendations is to fully fund the actuarial recommended contribution. Undoubtedly, tough decisions are ahead. What is clear, though, is that the system is in dire need of reform because the retirement system will end up consuming much of the budget to the exclusion of everything else including education and human services.