Over 1,000 demonstrators protest KY pension proposal
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKRC) – A single picture can say a lot. One picture taken on Monday says a whole lot about how people feel about the proposed change to Kentucky’s pension system.
The people in the picture are mostly teachers. They came to Frankfort with a message.
“Well, Senate Bill 1 is a complete mess. It can't be allowed to happen,” said Lisa Poor, a librarian for Campbell County Schools.
The message was for those inside the state capitol: Kentucky lawmakers. Some of whom may have been looking out the window at the huge crowd of social workers, public defenders, and school teachers.
“I teach 5th grade at Woodfield Elementary in Fort Thomas. I'm here for fighting for our current teachers, retired teachers, and most of our future teachers, because that’s the most important part of this puzzle,” said Dawn Hils, a teacher in Fort Thomas.
The teachers are angry because of a proposed change to Kentucky’s underfunded pension system in the name of “Senate Bill 1.”
SB1 would cut retirees cost of living increases, which would cost educators thousands of dollars.
The measure would also put as yet unfired teachers in a hybrid 401k and traditional pension, instead of the fixed monthly benefit check, which is currently the system.
“What they want to do to teacher pensions will hurt public education in Kentucky. No little boy or girl will want to be a teacher in Kentucky, and anyone who wants to be a teacher will have to go to Ohio or some other state that pays better wages,” said
The huge emotional crowd outside the capitol may remind you of what just happened in West Virginia, where teachers went on strike and got the raise they were asking for.
By law, teachers cannot walk out. They have to rely on political pressure.
The protesters agree that Kentucky’s pension system needs help, but they say the state needs to keep its promise and not take that money from those who count on it for retirement.
They say taxes should be raised if needed.
The demonstrators have already had some success. On Friday, Senate Bill 1, the pension bill, was sent back to committee instead of passed. The teachers say they'll keep up the heat.
“I'll tell you what, we're going to come here not just today, but every day left of the session,” said Hils.
The bill was sent back to committee, so it's not clear what will happen next.
Governor Matt Bevin says pension reform is critical because the pension system has billions of dollars in unfunded liability.
But the attorney general says the current proposal is illegal.