As discussions on what pension reform will look like in Kentucky ramp up ahead of a special session expected later this fall, Kentucky Chamber Communications Director Jacqueline Pitts appeared on Spectrum News show Pure Politics Wednesday to illustrate the Chamber’s position on the issue and discussed the organization’s recent honor of being named 2017 Chamber of the Year.
In reaction to the third phase of the audit of the state’s pension systems released Monday, Pitts explained the Chamber is continuing to be vocal on the pension crisis and the need for reform and said the recommendations laid out in the new report show there is a huge problem facing the state but noted the final plan will be crafted by legislative leaders.
“I’m sure a lot of people wonder why the Chamber is so vocal on this issue, and that is because it affects everyone in the state, especially the business community who pays a large percent of the taxes,” Pitts said during an in-studio interview with Pure Politics.
Discussing specific recommendations laid out in the report, Pitts stated the Chamber has been in favor of moving new hires into the Kentucky Retirement System (KRS) into a 401k-style plan, which mirror the private sector, moving forward but stressed the organization has not taken that same position on teachers up to this point as teachers currently do not receive Social Security.
“We also haven’t had a position on moving anybody current into any different type of system. Obviously there’s a lot of discussion about that now after yesterday, but up until yesterday there wasn’t a lot of talk of touching current employees, so we don’t really have a lot of positions on that, but we would like to make sure that things are, as (House Speaker) Jeff Hoover said yesterday too, meeting our legal obligations is important in this discussion,” Pitts said (at 2:00 in the video.)
As the state looks for more money to fund the pension systems, Pitts was asked about the Chamber’s stance on tax reform. She explained the state Chamber is in favor of making the tax code more competitive and finding more revenue to put toward the many challenges the state faces through moving toward a more consumption-based tax system and other specific reforms that would make the Commonwealth more attractive to prospective businesses and residents (discussion starting at 4:45.)
Pitts was also asked about the Kentucky Chamber’s recent honor of being named state Chamber of the Year by the Council of State Chambers. She explained the award is based on six categories including public affairs, political action, communications, membership development, membership services and organizational development and the Kentucky Chamber’s application included accomplishments in all of the areas after a successful year for business in 2017.
“We’ve had a really great year. Obviously, you talk about the 2017 session, the Chamber saw most of its agenda pass. And also, it is talked about a lot that we are often the top spender in terms of lobbying organizations,” Pitts said (at 9:00.) “In terms of communications, with The Bottom Line, we are the first state Chamber in the country to have our own news site, so that helped us. We have a lot of good health care services for our members and our membership is very strong now. And we also have our foundation which is doing a lot of great work. We have the Leadership Institute for School Principals where we pay for principals to get leadership training and then go back into their schools to improve the education system. And we recently created a Workforce Center to help employers have a larger voice in the workforce discussion, because that is the biggest issue facing Kentucky employers currently.”
For more state government news go to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s The Bottom Line blog.