About two dozen people joined state Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, and state Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, at a legislative breakfast Saturday as they discussed topics tackled by legislators during the short session of the general assembly.
Pension reform, redistricting and health-care reform were the main topics discussed during the breakfast, held by the Jessamine County Chamber of Commerce at J.D. Legends.
A plan proposed by the senate for pension reform, one of the major issues yet to be resolved by the legislature, is “a losing proposition,” Buford said.
“The Senate put together a plan that I think on the face of it has some great ideas,” he said. “I just ask ‘How are you going to pay for it?’”
The Senate’s plan, which Buford said he did not vote for, proposes a retirement plan for new employees that would function like a 401(k). The bill would actually put the pension in worse shape later than it would be in if no action is taken, the senator said.
“We can’t send that bill down to the House and it not have a funding mechanism, because we’re asking the general fund to put up $125 million and we’re asking local governments to put up another $100 million throughout the state,” he said. “I mean, where are they going to get this money? Then, in 25 years, we would be $55 million worse off than if we did nothing this year.”
The bill did not pass the House, he said.
“Well, the House figured it out in about 10 minutes,” he said. “They figured out it was about $55 million worse than if we made no action at all.”
Damron said he also doesn’t agree with the plan, nor was he for a plan proposed by the House that calls for the use of money from the lottery and horse tracks to be added to the state’s yearly pension contribution.
A 25-percent loss on investments in the system is responsible for the $33 billion in unfunded liability in the pension for state employees, Damron said.
Buford said health-care reform and the requirement of a health-care exchange as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was another big issue in the legislature.
A health-care exchange is going to be expensive to set up and operate, and those expenses will be passed on the those who buy health insurance, Buford said.
“It costs about $37 million a year to operate this exchange just in Kentucky, so regardless of whether you’re in the exchange or not, you’re going to get an added tax on your insurance premium if you live in Kentucky to support the exchange,” he said.
Buford said the state would receive money from the federal government to help set up the exchange.
“The federal government will be giving us about $260 million, like bribing us to start our own exchange by taking the money and creating a new bureaucracy to handle this,” he said.
But costs will rise for everyone who has insurance, he said.
“You’re probably going to pay 30 to 40 percent more than you did last year when you’re in the exchange,” he said.
He said many people in Kentucky who can’t afford health insurance now still won’t be able to.
“We do probably have maybe about 400,000 people in Kentucky that do not have health insurance,” he said. “If you take out the ones that don’t want it, the ones that don’t want to pay for it, you probably really have maybe about 100,000 people in Kentucky that would like to have insurance but don’t find it affordable. If they get in the exchange, I think maybe they’re going to have that same problem.”
A bill passed by the Senate, Senate Bill 129, that calls for the enforcing of new federal gun-control laws in the state to be prohibited also was discussed during the question-and-answer session of the breakfast.