By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
Gov. Matt Bevin and legislative leaders from the House and Senate took the stage at the 23rd annual Chamber Day Thursday night. The theme of the night centered around priorities of the coming year with pension reforms and the struggle to find a way to craft a sustainable state budget.
Gov. Bevin said the next two-year state budget that will be crafted this session will be “brutal” because “for the first time, we are going to pay our bills and pay pension obligations.”
The governor noted pension costs currently take up 20 percent of the state’s budget and stated nothing else can be paid if the issue is not addressed. Because of that, Bevin said a pension reform bill must pass, “and it will.”
In his first speech at Kentucky Chamber day, House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne said the legislature is facing many choices no one wants to make, but stressed changes to pensions, taxes, and the budget must be made. Osborne also thanked the work of the business community on such issues over the years.
The Republican leaders echoed many of the Chamber’s legislative priorities with Osborne stating the House will focus on essential skills, workers compensation system reforms, criminal justice improvements, tort reform, and others will be priorities of the state House, while also focusing on a balanced and sustainable budget as well as a top-notch workforce in Kentucky.
Senate President Robert Stivers told the crowd that funding needs for pensions, education, and infrastructure will be top priorities in 2018. He also stressed the successes of 2017 session with new laws like right-to-work, repeal of the prevailing wage, and others that have helped create jobs in Kentucky.
Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones said issues like pension and tax reforms must be addressed across party lines for Kentucky to move forward.
And House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins stressed the importance of education funding and low-cost energy while highlighting the need to produce a budget and pension reform in 2018.
Gov. Bevin will give his budget address on Jan. 16, and then legislators will start crafting a two-year budget. Legislative leaders have said they expect a pension bill will be released in the upcoming weeks.