Gov. Matt Bevin filed an appeal Friday asking the Kentucky Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling that struck down Kentucky’s new public pension law.
Bevin’s attorney, Steve Pitt, said in a news release that the Republican governor wants to bypass the Kentucky Court of Appeals and send the case directly to the state’s highest court.
“It is essential that Kentucky’s public servants receive a speedy and final resolution regarding the legality of pension reform legislation,” Pitt said, without noting that Friday was the last day Bevin could appeal the ruling by Franklin Circuit Judge Philip Shepherd.
Pitt added: “Our pension system is already dangerously close to collapsing. Without the reforms in Senate Bill 151, the system will continue to decline and remain the worst funded in the nation. These are weighty issues that will impact every Kentuckian. They must be decided by our state’s highest court and not based on the highly suspect ruling of a single judge.”
Shepherd ruled that the Republican-led General Assembly violated the Kentucky Constitution when it passed a surprise pension bill only six hours after introducing the legislation. The move angered teachers across the state.
Pitt said it is “imperative” that the Supreme Court “resolve the legislative process issues on which the circuit court based its decision, so that the General Assembly has every tool at its disposal to advance important legislative priorities.”
Republicans have noted that several other key laws were passed using the same expedited procedures that Shepherd ruled unconstitutional, raising questions about their validity if challenged in court.
The governor’s lawyer said he is “confident that the Supreme Court will see that reforms in SB 151 are not only legal, but are necessary to save Kentucky’s public pensions for current and future retirees.”
Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat, challenged the law in court with the Kentucky Education Association and the Kentucky State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police.
Beshear has said he is open to bypassing the Court of Appeals and taking the case to the Supreme Court.
Jim Carroll, with the advocacy group Kentucky Government Retirees, said Friday that his group is “shocked that the governor has released a statement claiming that Kentucky Retirement Systems will ‘collapse’ without the adoption of Senate Bill 151.”
“This assertion is in no way supported by actuarial analysis,” Carroll said. “We as stakeholders are appalled that scare tactics are being used as a pretext for attempting to make illegal pension benefit cuts.”
Ron Richmond, spokesman for Kentucky Public Pension Coalition, which represents active and retired Kentucky public employees, said “it is unfortunate that Gov. Bevin has decided to appeal the decision — wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars in the process.
“The legislature and the governor clearly violated the rules which were put in place to guarantee a fair debate and public input on each and every bill,” Richmond said.
Written by Jack Brammer. Cross-posted with permission from the Herald-Leader via the Kentucky Press News Service.