FRANKFORT -- Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin's administration hasn't built enough "comfort level" among lawmakers to get his pension-relief proposal through the Republican-led House in a potential special legislative session, the House speaker said Wednesday.
Speaker David Osborne said discussions continue in an effort to "try to get those votes" for Bevin's plan, which aims to provide relief to some state-funded agencies struggling with surging retirement payments. The proposal would replace a pension measure vetoed by the governor in April after lawmakers had ended this year's regular legislative session.
"As of right now, I don't believe that there is a comfort level that the necessary votes are there to pass that particular proposal," Osborne told reporters.
Bevin sent a letter to lawmakers last week urging them to "do the financially responsible thing" as he sought support for his struggling proposal. Members of Bevin's team have met with lawmakers to try to build support for the measure in a special session the governor wants to call. Bevin is grappling with the politically treacherous issue as he seeks reelection this year.
Legislative leaders have said it's up to Bevin to line up support for his pension proposal.
"It's my understanding that they are closer to that point," Senate President Robert Stivers said as he and Osborne spoke with reporters at the state Capitol.
Regional universities as well as county health departments, rape crisis centers and many other quasi-governmental agencies face ballooning pension costs on July 1 unless action is taken.
State leaders worry that inaction would strain the state's quasi-public agencies and lead to some bankruptcies, elimination of staff and loss of critical services for Kentuckians.
Bevin's plan has been endorsed by regional university presidents and picked up support from some representatives of local health departments, mental health centers and other agencies.
His proposal allows the agencies to stay with the Kentucky Retirement Systems at full cost, leave the retirement system by paying a lump sum equal to future projected benefits payments or buy their way out in installment payments over 30 years.