Pensions have garnered a lot of attention this past year and with good reason. Pension debt (at least $40 Billion at this point) has gotten so large and is growing at such a fast pace that it threatens every last program in our state. The growing debt literally threatens the entire economic health of our state. If not corrected, it will force increased taxes which in turn will drive businesses and jobs away. Pensions also have gotten a lot of attention because those who have counted on them are rightfully concerned that they would lose some or all of those benefits. A solution was needed that stopped the bleeding and put the pensions back on the path to solvency.
This past session, the legislature did what none before us was willing to do, which is to fully fund the pensions and make it law that they always are fully funded. In addition, we took on the problem by plugging the hole that was causing the bleeding. This legislature made changes to newly hired teachers to take them out of the bleeding pension system and put them into what is a very robust retirement plan that will allow them to control their future earnings. Virtually no changes were made to current teachers or retirees because a promise made needs to be a promise kept. The debt load is being treated like a long-term mortgage and will be paid off over the next 20 to 25 years. This change has been praised by outside groups and seen as long overdue.
One of the main reasons I came to Frankfort just four years ago was because I saw the fiscal mismanagement of our state and I was not willing to watch it continue. I am helping to drive the changes needed that will put us on sound financial footing. Proper management of state finances will ultimately lower the burden on the tax payer while at the same time it will allow the state to focus more on services instead of debt payments. More work needs to be done on our state finances, but once and for all we can put the pension discussion behind us.