By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — When Doug Botkin began as a maintenance employee in Fayette County schools in 1988, he and his wife struggled to pay all of their bills.
“When I came to work for Fayette County, I was told, ‘We won’t be able to pay you as much, but if you work hard and stick with us, you will have a good pension,'” Botkin told a crowd of more than 300 hundred on Thursday in the Capitol Rotunda. “Now 25 years later, I am told that my pension may be in danger. Every paycheck I have received from my employer has had a deduction for my contribution to the Kentucky Retirement System. I’ve never missed a payment.”
Botkin was one of more than a half dozen speakers at a packed rally. Firefighters, teachers, police, state employees and retirees crowded into the Capitol to urge lawmakers to fully fund the ailing pension system, one of the poorest in the country.
The event was hosted by the Kentucky Public Pension Coalition, a coalition of employee unions and retirees.
Kentucky has only 44 percent of the money it needs to fund the pensions of current and future retirees. A task force charged with studying the issue has said the state needs to come up with an additional $325 million for the pension fund starting in fiscal year 2015. The task force also recommended a host of other changes, including doing away with an annual cost-of-living adjustment, trimming benefits for future retirees and making other changes to the fund.
Some leading lawmakers have said reforms to the pension fund will be their top priority in the 30-day legislative session, which began on Tuesday, but no one has yet identified where they would get extra money to put into the pension system.