The Richmond Register

Viewpoints

March 28, 2013

The ‘New Frankfort’ shows government can work

The closing of the 2013 General Assembly at midnight Tuesday was more remarkable than its warm, gushy opening the first week of January.

Remember January? The Governor invited legislators to the mansion for dinner, making an important, if primarily symbolic gesture, toward the new legislature.

Legislative leaders and the Governor, speaking to more than 1,000 state business and political leaders at the Kentucky Chamber Day event a few days later, declared a new atmosphere of bipartisanship and civility that would lead to real progress for the Commonwealth.

Attendees were overheard taking bets on how long that campfire spirit of “Kumbaya” would last. After all, legislative sessions are expected to devolve into political gamesmanship and/or warfare before the clock strikes midnight on the last day.

Thirty legislative days later, we can reach conclusions based on what happened.

In spite of major philosophical differences on some emotional issues and competing political agendas among key players, the bipartisan atmosphere in Frankfort, by and large, was sustained and produced real, measurable results for the Commonwealth.

Compromises enabled bills on public pensions, hemp, university bonding and the high school attendance age to reach the governor’s desk, and those are just a few examples.

In the eyes of the business community, fixing the state’s broken public pension system wasn't everything in this session – but it came close, representing a fundamental opportunity for the state to get its financial house in order.

We’ve been hammering on this issue for six years. With more than $30 billion in promises made to state workers and current retirees and less than 50 cents put aside for every $1 of promises made, Kentucky’s system is one of the worst in the country.

Our bond ratings have been downgraded, making it more expensive for state and local governments to borrow money for necessary projects.

A compromise solution to the problem followed months of work last year by an interim legislative committee headed by Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, and then-representative Mike Cherry, D-Princeton.

With the help of the Pew Charitable Trust and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the hybrid of a traditional, defined-benefit pension system and a modern, defined-contribution plan was advocated.

With bipartisan leadership in the Senate by new Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and Minority Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, Sen. Thayer’s Senate Bill 2 passed that chamber with strong bipartisan support, 33-5.

House leaders, specifically Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, questioned the structure of the proposed new system, but focused more on the need to find a way to pay for it.

Gov. Steve Beshear was willing to consider the hybrid plan, but said he wouldn't accept a plan that didn't include a way to pay for it. He wasn’t going to put the costs of fixing the pension system “on the backs of our school children.”

The process stalled. “We have to have reform in this session” ran up against “We have to find a way to pay for it.”

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce stepped up its outreach with a sizeable buy of radio advertising in early March on 200 radio stations, insisting that pension reform needed to happen in the 2013 session.

The governor weighed in, convening countless meetings of legislators in his office.

To some, his willingness to roll up his sleeves was a refreshing show of executive leadership on one of the toughest issues to confront Frankfort in years.

President Stivers, to his great credit, had pledged to set a new tone in the Senate. All indications to-date from Republicans and Democrats is that he has fulfilled that pledge without compromising his party’s principles.

Speaker Stumbo showed his political creativity by trying several times to find a funding source that was palatable to a majority of his members.

The possibility of a tax increase on cigarettes, a tax on an expanded lottery and a trade-off with revenues that were flowing into the road fund were concepts that were eventually discarded.

Ultimately, the governor negotiated a plan between the leaders of both chambers that garnered enough votes for the House to approve not only the pension fix, but a funding plan to pay for it.

Stumbo's late-evening speech on the House floor was brilliant for giving his members political cover for a difficult vote and for straightforwardly addressing the concerns of some of his key Democratic constituencies – namely employee unions that didn't want to see any substantial changes to the state’s pension system.

Most Republican House members, even those concerned about the proposed revenue measures, stepped up and supported the pension fix.

The business community, as we noted several times, would have preferred a pure 401-K. But in the realities of the business world, you don’t always get all you want and are willing to settle for what will work.

In this session of the General Assembly, bipartisanship won out on the biggest issue of the day. Pragmatism and democracy prevailed.

And Kentucky is better off for it.

Dave Adkisson is President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

1
Text Only
Viewpoints
  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Compromise is not that simple

    It’s tempting for a casual onlooker to wonder why the Democratic House and Republican Senate can’t make what on the surface looks like the obvious compromise on pension reform.
    The Senate passed a measure based on recommendations of a task force to move new employees into a hybrid, cash-balance plan but maintain existing defined benefits for current employees and retirees.

    March 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Waters.JPG Frankfort plays ping-pong with public pension transparency

    Legislation that would make the Kentucky Retirement Systems transparent for those paying its bills has danced into the spotlight during the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
    Passage of transparency bills filed by Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Latonia, and Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, would make the “names, status, projected or actual benefit payments” subject to our commonwealth’s superlative Open Records Act.

    March 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jack Strauss-BW.jpg The case of the ghostly neighbor

    Wilbur lived in a world of fears. Everything frightened him. The full extent of his courage was to admit that he had none.
    Noises in the middle of the night, his own shadow creeping up on him and, most of all, black cats scared the wits out of him.
    So, picture his chagrin, one day, when he came home from vacation only to discover that a mausoleum had been erected on property adjacent to his home.

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Provisional concealed-carry law passes Senate unanimously

    Things are staying busy in Frankfort. Many bills are making their way onto the Senate floor from various committees. This past week several important pieces of legislation were debated and passed.
    I am particularly proud of the success we had in advocating for Kentuckians’ Second Amendment rights.
    I introduced Senate Bill 106 to allow anyone who has been granted an emergency protective or domestic violence order to receive a provisional CCDW permit from the Kentucky State Police in one business day. In some of these cases, victims need this type of protection as quickly as possible.

    March 8, 2014

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg 50 years makes a world of difference

    I wasn’t in Frankfort on March 5, 1964, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and Jackie Robinson led 10,000 on a march to the state Capitol in support of a public accommodations law.
    But a few months later, I stood in front of the “Music Hall,” site of the Glasgow Junior High School located on a street named Liberty, and watched black kids “walk up the hill” of College Street on the first day of integrated schools in Glasgow.

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • 02.23 Mike Duncan mug.jpg Coal has kept Kentuckians warm this winter

    This winter, temperatures across the country dipped to historic lows. Here in our home state of Kentucky, the near-arctic climate caused increased power demand which resulted in an incredible strain on the electric grid and rising energy costs.

    March 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Waters.JPG Protecting citizens’ data is a no-brainer

    Target Corp. is learning the hard way: The price is steep for retailers who don’t protect customers’ sensitive financial information.
    Target’s profits fell a whopping 50 percent during its fourth quarter of 2013 as the result of a massive security breach involving as many as 110 million of its customers’ credit- and debit-card accounts, which began the day before Thanksgiving and extended throughout much of the holiday shopping season.

    March 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Making plans for spring planting

    My brother Keith (Keeter) probably planted peas on one of those warm days last week, and I would not be at all surprised to find out that brother Steve did likewise to try to be the first two fellows in Letcher County to actually be digging the soil in their 2014 gardens.
    Keeter’s father-in-law, the late Dock Mitchell, used to get my brother to drive him a 50-mile round trip to get pea seeds and potting soil for early February planting. Dock raised mammoth melting sugar snow peas and sugar snaps around every fence on the place. 

    February 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Cynicism, optimism both on display in Frankfort

    Those who spend little time in Kentucky’s Capitol and who read columns by cynics who cover it should be forgiven their disillusionment about how the people’s business is conducted.

    February 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Even Scrooge would enjoy library mystery

    Saturday afternoons and evenings are usually down time for Loretta and me.
    We simply don’t get out much after we’ve used up the movie gift certificates the kids gave us for Christmas. That means we mostly go to the movies to avoid guilt trips because our kids do work hard for their money.

    February 20, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should the Richmond City Commission stop rezoning property to allow construction of apartments?

Yes.
No
     View Results