The Senate wrapped up the first week back passing several pieces of strong legislation that illustrate our priorities. And as next week unrolls, you will see an entire package of fiscally conservative, pro-family bills pass the chamber.
Many of you have heard about the huge unfunded liability in our public employee pension system. Senate Bill 2 is step one in addressing one of the greatest public policy challenges facing our state. First, please understand that the bill makes no changes to teachers’ retirement, does not impact those currently employed or retired, and does not create a new tax on pension income of either private or public employees. What it does do is create a sustainable retirement benefit for state employees by creating a new hybrid cash-balance plan for future employees. The legislation provides the guarantee of at least 4% return of the money put in by the worker. Further, the employee can take any funds accrued with them if they change jobs. It recommends the full funding of the actuarially-required contribution to the retirement system which will occur next year when legislators work on the state’s biennial budget. This issue must be addressed now because every dollar needed to pay for pension benefits is a dollar unavailable for another worthy purpose. SB 2 will stop the bleeding of state dollars.
Everyone who knows me knows how much I am invested spiritually and intellectually in the pro-life cause. It was entirely appropriate for me and others in the Senate that we marked this, our first week back, with the passage of Senate Bills 4 and 5. Thursday was Right to Life Day in the Capital where hundreds of people of all ages came out to listen to inspiring speeches and talk to legislators about their core values. That same day, we passed legislation to provide as much information as possible to the woman considering an abortion. SB 4 requires a face-to-face meeting between a woman contemplating an abortion and her doctor 24 hours before the procedure. It is shocking to me that this type of counseling is often done through a recorded message on the phone. Senate Bill 5 directs the provider to offer the ultrasound image of the baby to a woman prior to an abortion. The viewing is not mandatory but it is informational so that the woman can have all the facts before making a life or death decision. Ultrasounds are standard before these procedures anyway. These are commonsense bills that protect women’s health and well-being while recognizing the sanctity of life.
Finally, we heard mid-week from the Governor on his legislative priorities. I am concerned that he indicated a desire for more revenue, which in government-speak means higher taxes. I am open to hearing the different points of view but I am opposed to increasing taxes, particularly to fund the pension system when taxpayers aren’t the reason the funds are in such bad shape to begin with. We need a tax code that will create jobs, not fund bureaucracies. More importantly, Frankfort must prove it can be a good steward of the resources is already has before demanding more revenue.
Finally, this week I filed SB 104 and SB 105 which eliminates project labor agreements and the prevailing wage, and would save state and local governments many millions of dollars that can be best directed toward meeting critical needs, education, cost of living adjustments, pension contributions and other services. Next week, I’m looking forward to the passage of SB 10 which places a ceiling on the state’s debt. There is also a planned vote on SB 6, a bill that passed through my committee this week, which will stiffen penalties for heroin dealers. You can always contact me, or any legislator, toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or see what the Legislature is doing by checking out www.lrc.ky.gov .
Senator Whitney Westerfield (R-Hopkinsville) represents the 3rd District including Christian, Logan, and Todd counties.