By Beth Musgrave
FRANKFORT — With only seven days remaining in the legislative session, House and Senate leaders on Monday were no closer to reaching an agreement on on how to fix and fund the ailing pension system.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he had not talked with Senate leaders yet about the fate of two bills that deal with pensions. The two chambers took the unusual step of rejecting the other chamber’s pension bills last week.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said that there was still a possibility that the pension problem could be solved. Any bill can be taken up in a “free conference committee” a committee of members of both chambers that could discuss any bill or topic.
Stumbo said Monday that the House was still open to discussing the pension issue and said that the House did not want to have to return to Frankfort to deal with the issue in a special legislative session, which would cost taxpayers an additional $60,000 a day.
“We’re willing to sit down with the Senate,” Stumbo said. “We don’t want to have a special session.”
Both chambers have passed versions of Senate Bill 2, a pension overhaul bill. The Senate’s version moves new hires into a 401 (K) hybrid plan and nixes all cost-of-living increases for retirees. The House version keeps the traditional defined benefit structure for new hires and only allows cost-of-living increases if there is money to pay for it. The House also passed House Bill 416, which uses money generated from expanding lottery games and instant racing — a slots-type games where players bet on historical horse races — to pay for pensions. The Senate has said that the additional funding for the pension can be determined in 2014, when the General Assembly tackles the two-year budget.