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Educators, lawmakers react to proposed pension system changes

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, and Republican lawmakers unveil their new plan to solve the state's public pension crisis.

The systems are facing massive funding shortfalls as lawmakers rush to find a fix before the money runs out.

During today's press conference, Governor Bevin described the plan as more than just about securing the funding problem, it's also about funding its financial future. Educators and others across the commonwealth are reviewing that now to be sure those promises are being kept.

"It puts a plan in place to shore up ills of the past and get us on a path moving forward that will be sustainable," says State Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Daviess County.

The plan includes enrolling future teachers and public workers in defined contribution plans, which are similar to 401K plans, prevent clawbacks to pension and health care benefits, and no increase in full retirement age. Gov. Bevin says it could take 30 years to make the pension system fully solvent. Bowen says it can also help stabilize the state's financial situation.

"We're making a step forward to pay down our accrued liability and at the same time, allow us to have the funds that we desperately need to balance our budget," says Sen. Bowen. Daviess County Public School Superintendent Matt Robbins, who, earlier this month, was part of a group of superintendents who spoke against moving pensions to 401K plans immediately, says he's reviewing the plan and its impact on teacher retention and new hires.

"I'm concerned about any situation that might force a teacher or a support staff employee to leave the system because of the personal financial hit they may take by staying," Robbins says.

Larry Muffett of Lewisport collects a pension from his former company, but he says he worries how those on state pensions will be affected by the planned changes.

"This is our livelihood. It's what we have to live on. We have to worry what changes that get done in the long, long term for us retired people," he says.

Governor Bevin adds that no special session on the pension proposal has been scheduled so far.

(This story was originally published on October 18, 2017)

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