One of the most important responsibilities of the State Treasurer is to be a watchdog for money earned by Kentuckians. That includes protecting Kentucky retirees’ pensions. I was proud to support Senate Bill 3 that passed the General Assembly and was signed into law by Governor Bevin earlier this year. That bill shines a light on legislator pensions by allowing the people of Kentucky to see how their tax dollars are being paid to retired legislators. This is critical information; Kentucky has one of the worst overall pension liabilities in the country.
Based on a report from S&P last fall, Kentucky is one of the lowest ranked states in the country of funding ratios for pensions. This is due to a number of lingering issues including structural imbalances, inaccurate assumptions, lack of fully funding the ARC, lower rates of return from investments, and previous administrations ignoring the problem. These factors make it increasingly important that the organizations that oversee our pension systems manage their financial resources properly.
In July of last year, I filed a lawsuit seeking to protect Kentucky retirees’ pensions. When I moved to intervene in the lawsuit, I specifically targeted restricting a former Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS) board member from using over $50,000 in pension dollars to pay his own legal fees. I took action because I believed the payments were contrary to law and that it was imperative for me to take steps to protect both retirees and their retirement funds. This is an important issue to me; I have a commitment to protecting retiree pensions and because of that I support Senate Bill 2.
This bill would provide Kentucky retirees with new protections by specifically setting a cap on the hourly rate paid to outside attorneys representing Kentucky Retirement Systems trustees, officers, or employees, ensuring that those attorneys are paid using the same rates as other government agencies that utilize outside legal representation. Hard earned pension dollars are important to the future of Kentucky employees. This bill will help to ensure that pension funds are better protected.
It is the obligation of all state agencies, including the Kentucky Retirement Systems, to be fiscally responsible and protect taxpayer dollars. As the lead watchdog of Kentucky taxpayer dollars, my office regularly monitors legislation that further protects Kentucky taxpayers. Senate Bill 2 does that. It provides an additional layer of protection to Kentucky retirees by preventing the Kentucky Retirement Systems from paying excess fees to outside lawyers. This bill creates a safeguard against wasteful spending. I urge the General Assembly to pass Senate Bill 2 and protect Kentucky retirees’ pensions.
Allison Ball is the 38th Kentucky State Treasurer.