Lawmakers and teachers clash over pension reform

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FRANKFORT. Ky. (WTVQ)- At the state capital Wednesday, lawmakers had their first hearing for one of the defining issues of this general assembly, he republican plan to overhaul the financially troubled public pension system.

Emotions ran high during a senate committee meeting as hundreds of teachers packed into the room to voice their displeasure with the republicans’ proposed pension bill.

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A rowdy crowd of current and retired teachers heckled lawmakers during their first hearing on Senate Bill 1, the pension reform bill republican leadership says will help fix Kentucky’s ailing pension system.

During the hearing lawmakers went over several new changes they made to the bill, changes they say were made to compromise with teachers’ requests which include increasing the proposed cost-of-living raise for retired teachers from three-quarters percent to one-percent a year.

Currently it’s one and a half percent.

But many of the teachers at the meeting say these changes are not enough.

“I don’t feel like the committee subs address the real root of the problem. We still feel like there’s many things that violate the inviolable contract and we are hopeful that if it does pass out of the senate, eventually that the house will take into consideration our views and consider this as unacceptable as we do,” said Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association.

“We’re working to save their systems. That’s the whole origin of this. That’s the whole premise of the bill. We want to save these systems. We don’t want these systems to languish and fail but if we fail to act, that’s in fact what’s going to happen,” said Sen. Joe Bowen (R-Owensboro), the sponsor of Senate Bill 1.

Due to the recent changes made to the bill, the committee did not vote on it during this meeting.

They say they will wait a few days for the public to review and comment on the changes before reconvening for a vote.