By Janet Sogar, Community Recorder guest columnist
Click here to view the full article
In his Viewpoints column on Nov. 9, State Sen. Damon Thayer had high praise for Governor Bevin’s proposed changes to the ailing state pension system. He is certain that these changes will “keep the pension promise to our teachers and public servants.”
As a retired Boone County teacher, it is hard for me to understand why he would make such a statement when there is so much evidence to the contrary. This new plan has nothing but negative effects on teachers and retirees, and it will cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
An analysis by Cavanaugh Macdonald Consulting shows that Bevin’s proposal will cost taxpayers an extra $4.4 billion over the next 20 years. Yet the pension system at that time would be less well funded than if lawmakers did nothing else but contribute the state’s share. Meanwhile, it will become more difficult to recruit and keep good teachers in a profession that requires advanced degrees but offers modest compensation and offers no safety net when workers get old. Bevin’s plan also calls for shifting some costs from the state to the local school level, thus taking funds directly from our own local schools.
Why is the pension system in trouble? It’s not the pension system’s fault. Investments have been well managed, and return on investments has been very good, among the highest in the nation. It’s not the teachers’ fault. Teachers have contributed every penny of their share through payroll deductions. The answer is because the state has not put in its full share for the past nine years. Bevin is attempting to make up for the state’s negligence by shifting the state’s debts to the teachers and other public workers who already did their part.
What are the negative effects of the proposed changes on teachers? Teachers, by law, are not allowed to pay into or receive benefits from Social Security. That’s why our pension is so important to us. By law, we have been promised a 1.5 percent cost of living increase each year that we are retired. Teachers actually prepay those cost of living increases by deducting 1.7 percent from every paycheck during our working years. Yet the governor’s plan ignores those facts. Because of the way the plan is structured, all retired teachers and future retirees will lose thousands of dollars in their pension checks each year after the initial five years of more modest decreases. Governor Bevin wonders why retired teachers are not “jumping for joy.”
Of course, the most striking negative effect of the proposed pension plan is switching from the current defined benefit model to Bevin’s defined contribution model. This change is too complicated to explain here. Suffice it to say that this idea has been tried in other states and has failed miserably. There are many more items in Bevin’s plan which harm teachers and other public employees that are too numerous to mention here.
So don’t be fooled by those who claim they are voting for this bill to “save the pension system” or “keep the pension promise.” The facts are clear. Governor Bevin’s plan does neither. Contact your legislators. Tell them to vote no on this pension bill. Take the time to get it right.
Janet Sogar taught in Kentucky schools for 37 years and is now retired. She resides in Florence.