By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
New Acting House Speaker David Osborne says he hopes to bring calm and stability to his new role as the legislature works to tackle difficult issues like pension reform and craft a new two-year state budget among political turmoil.
The new Acting Speaker noted many members of his caucus expressed concerns about the prospect of a special session in the coming weeks to tackle pension reforms, especially as a bill has not been completed and will not be available before asking members to cast a vote.
When asked if an agreement could be drafted into bill form and scored by actuaries to give the financial information on any reforms time to pass within the first couple weeks of the 2018 session, Osborne said that process is already “substantially complete” and should allow time for public input before a vote.
“I think we absolutely do have time to get that bill, get some sunlight on it and let the public weigh in on it, get that information to our members and allow them to interact with their constituencies—albeit over the holidays, it’s not going to be the best time to communicate, but at the same time people are able to focus on things during the holidays. So I think they are going to come in here with enough knowledge and information to go ahead and act on something,” Osborne said.
Osborne added reforms have to be made in order for the state to move forward as the pension crisis continues to impact all areas of state government.
“It is a horrendous pull on our state budget. This is going to be probably the most difficult budget that certainly I’ve ever been through, and quite possibly the most difficult budget in modern history, regardless of what we do with pension reform,” Osborne said. “But we can’t continue to allow the unfunded liability of the pensions to be this incredible drag on our budget. We don’t have the revenue in this state, no matter what we do in tax reform or revenue enhancements, there’s no way we can possibly come up with enough money to continue to substantiate this type of unfunded liability.”
Along with the significant policy challenges facing the legislature, the House Republicans have experienced controversy in recent months as the former House Speaker stepped down among harassment allegations. As a result, the House Republican caucus announced last week that Osborne would serve as Acting Speaker in 2018 and the rest of the leadership team would also remain in place.
Osborne told The Bottom Line the leadership team felt the decision was the best way to move forward and keep the caucus united in the coming year. He added he hopes to bring some calm and stability in his new role.
“We have had quite a bit of turmoil and controversy and I think it’s important to provide some calm to the process and give some confidence to the people of Kentucky that we are here to do business,” Osborne said.