Op-Ed by Kentucky Chamber President & CEO Dave Adkisson
The closing of the 2013 Kentucky General Assembly at midnight March 26 was more remarkable than its warm, friendly opening the first week of January.
Remember January? Governor Beshear invited legislators to the Mansion for dinner, making an important, if mostly symbolic, gesture, toward the new legislature. A few days later, legislative leaders and the Governor, speaking to more than 1,000 business and political leaders at a Kentucky Chamber of Commerce event, declared a new atmosphere of bipartisanship and civility that would lead to real progress for the Commonwealth.
Frankly, some people were skeptical about how long that campfire spirit of “Kumbaya” would last. After all, legislative sessions usually devolve into political gamesmanship.
In spite of major philosophical differences on some emotional issues and competing political agendas, the bipartisan atmosphere in Frankfort, by and large, was sustained and produced real, measurable results for the Commonwealth.
Several significant bills passed; the most important one for the business community was finding a solution to the state's pension crisis. That was accomplished in the final hours, with strong leadership from Governor Beshear, Senate President Stivers and Speaker Greg Stumbo.
The historic public pension reforms in SB 2 will provide full funding for the retirement system, revise retirement benefits for new employees starting next year and reduce overall costs – saving an estimated $10 billion in employer contributions over the next 20 years – approximately $5.4 billion in savings in the plan that serves state employees and a similar amount in the plan that serves local government employees. Bipartisan pension reform was not only a victory for Kentucky taxpayers, it was a slam dunk for the business community.
The Kentucky Chamber represents thousands of businesses, large and small, all over the state. Business people like to see results. Kentucky’s legislators made real progress this session on the biggest issue facing Kentucky – and in the process, showed that government CAN work.