Fletcher Warns That Special Session Possible On Pensions

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Gov. Ernie Fletcher warned lawmakers Friday he would consider calling the General Assembly into special session if they didn't take action on a proposal to overhaul the state's financially strapped pension system.

Fletcher issued a statement Friday afternoon urging lawmakers to agree on the Senate-endorsed pension proposal. The governor, who was not in Frankfort at the time, offered to work with legislative leaders over the weekend to find compromise.

"This matter is too important to let personalities and politics stand in the way," Fletcher said in the statement.

The governor's warning comes as leaders in the Republican-led Senate and the Democrat-controlled House are at odds over the fate of a proposal to overhaul the pension system.

The Senate-backed plan, which had support from both Democrats and Republicans, called for the state to sell more than $800 million in bonds to put into the retirement systems for public employees and teachers. That plan would also limit pension benefits for future employees, but would not affect current state employees and retirees.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, has said the state's pension system would go broke by 2022 if action is not taken. If that happened, state government would have to pay $2 billion per year on pensions.

House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, has said he would support the state taking on the additional debt through the bond issue, but did not want to limit future pension benefits.

State government would have to pay about $60 million annually over the next 20 years, under the proposal. Williams has said that the state would lose $200 million by not enacting the change this year.

Legislators are running out of time if they want to pass the legislation this session. The legislature is scheduled to meet on three more work days before adjourning the regular session on March 27.

"Taking action now means saving millions of taxpayer dollars," Fletcher said in the release. "My staff and I will be available all weekend to work with leaders of both chambers to move this issue forward."

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