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With First Week Down, General Assembly Staring at Tough Session on Pension, Budget

Lawmakers returned to the State Capitol this week to begin a General Assembly session that’s sure to tackle a wide range of issues. But Capitol observers say there are two issues this year that will likely dominate many discussions: public pension reform and the state budget.

Issues concerning the unfunded liabilities associated with the state’s pension systems for public employees received growing attention last year with much speculation on whether lawmakers would be called into a special legislative session to deal with the matter. Those challenges are still in focus as lawmakers move into the early stages of the current session while working to ensure that a consensus is reached on the issue.

While pension reform would most directly impact current and future public retirees, it’s fair to say this issue touches all state citizens. As pension costs grow and liabilities increase, it becomes harder to fund Kentuckians’ other priorities, like education, public protection, and workforce development.

Such consequences are why any action lawmakers take on pension reform is certain to have a big impact on the other top issue of the legislative session, the state budget. Every two years lawmakers create a biennial state budget, so now’s the time to craft the plan that will guide state spending for the next two fiscal years that begin on July 1.

The budget process will take a big step forward on Jan. 16 when Gov. Matt Bevin presents his proposed spending plan in a speech to lawmakers that will be broadcast to a statewide audience on Kentucky Educational Television. Soon after, lawmakers on budget subcommittees will begin digging into the plan and considering the changes they want to make to ensure that the final spending plan reflects their priorities for the state.

While pensions and the budget will receive much attention in the days ahead, there’s a growing list of bills on other matters that lawmakers will study in-depth. More than 100 bills have already been introduced this year on matters including child protection, tax reform, drones, and drug treatment.

That makes this an important time for citizens to stay in touch with lawmakers and share views on the issues that will be voting on during the remainder of the session. There are several easy ways citizens can stay in touch with the General Assembly.

The Kentucky Legislature Home Page,, provides information on each of the Commonwealth’s senators and representatives, including phone numbers, addressees, and committee assignments. The site also provides bill texts, a bill-tracking service, and committee meeting schedules.

To leave a message for any legislator, call the General Assembly’s Message Line at 800-372-7181. People with hearing difficulties may leave messages for lawmakers by calling the TTY Message Line at 800-896-0305.

You may also write any legislator by sending a letter with the lawmaker’s name to: Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601.