LOUISVILLE -- Gov. Matt Bevin strongly dismissed a House Democratic plan to provide financial relief on skyrocketing pension costs for regional universities and quasi-govermental agencies, saying it makes too many assumptions and "frankly is immoral."
The Republican governor also said he would call a special legislative session by the end of this month to address the problem but did not offer a specific date when it should begin. House Republican leaders have suggested it start July 19.
Bevin's comments came at Kentucky Chamber's 2019 Business Summit in front of several hundred people. The business organization invited both Bevin and Democratic nominee, Attorney General Andy Beshear, to attend but Beshear, who claims the chamber supports Bevin, declined. An empty chair was placed next to Bevin and moderator Jacqueline Pitts, communications director for the chamber.
Less than 24 hours after House Democrats unveiled an alternative to Bevin's pension-relief bill, Bevin made it clear he did not like it. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the House 61 to 29.
House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said, "It's disappointing that Gov. Bevin would tear down a plan that was offered as a good-faith and bipartisan effort by the House Democrats.
"Our proposals have been well-received by the stakeholders and are backed up with a solid actuarial analysis. What is immoral is taking away the retirement security that thousands of dedicated public servants have been counting on for years if not decades."
The goal of the Democratic plan and Bevin's is to provide financial relief to regional universities and quasi-governmental agencies like mental health centers and libraries in steep spikes in their public-pension costs.
They have argued on how to deal with retirement security for the employees involved.
The Democratic plan would adjust assumptions Kentucky Retirement Systems uses to calculate employer costs each year and expect more money from its investments.
For example, the investment rate would -- for one year only -- be moved from the current 5.25 to 6% while payroll growth would go from 0 to 1% per year.
"They assume more money from the markets," said Bevin, saying such a plan was "unacceptable, frankly immoral."
Of Beshear's absence at the meeting, Bevin said, "You get to choose one of the two of us. You have to decide how do you respond to the fact that someone is not willing to sit and speak with you."
In a second four-year term, Bevin said his priorities would be addressing the state's pension crisis and modernizing its tax laws.
He touted his administration's economic development efforts, noting that the state ended the fiscal year June 30 with nearly a $200 million surplus and has recorded about $20 billion in private capital investment since he took office in December 2015 -- an all-time record for any four-year administration.
He said he did not worry that polls show him with low favorability ratings. "I've always been unpopular," he said
McConnell: Kentuckyto use 'unified method' in fight against carp
BY The Paducah Sun
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will use a "unified method" of fishing to remove Asian carp from western Kentucky's waterways.
The method involves the use of sonic technology to corral the invasive species into a single area, where they can then be removed in large numbers, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell said in a news release Thursday.
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has answered my call to deploy an aggressive strategy to combat these invasive and dangerous species in Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. With coordination among several agencies at all levels, we can help protect Kentucky's treasured waters, support our boaters and anglers, and bolster Western Kentucky's $1.2 billion fishing economy," McConnell said in the statement.
The method has proven successful in other countries, and the U.S. Geological Survey has used it effectively in Missouri and Illinois, he said.
Addressing the Asian carp issue has required a collaborative approach from those federal agencies, as well as the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Judge-Executives Wade White and Kevin Neal have also worked with these agencies and drawn attention to the "War on Carp."
McConnell visited western Kentucky in May to discuss options to address the Asian carp infestation that has damaged local ecosystems and threatened the tourism and fishing industries. He called reducing the Asian carp population a top priority for this year and next.
"Sen. Mitch McConnell went to bat for West Kentucky," said White, Lyon County's judge executive. "When I contacted Sen. McConnell about the Asian carp crisis, he took the time to recognize the problem and used his experience and a hands-on approach to bring solutions."
The recently enacted Interior Appropriations bill includes $11 million to help fight Asian carp in the Mississippi and Ohio River basins. The amount represents a $600,000 increase from last year's funding, McConnell's office said.
McConnell helped to secure $11 million in the recently enacted Interior Appropriations bill -- a $600,000 increase from the fiscal year 2018 level --- for efforts to combat Asian carp in the Mississippi and Ohio River basins.
Congressman: McGrath's early errors show a primary challenge might be helpful
By Phillip M. Bailey
Louisville Courier Journal
Kentucky's lone Democrat in Washington says Senate candidate Amy McGrath made a "pretty significant" mistake in saying she would have voted to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Rep. John Yarmuth, who is often seen as the state party's unofficial leader, told the Courier Journal on Thursday he hopes McGrath better prepares in the future.
"It could have gone smoother," he said. "By her own admission she made a pretty significant mistake and corrected it. I hope she prepares a little bit better for the rest of the campaign, I'm sure she will."
But Yarmuth added that another Democrat might need to enter the race to strengthen any contender against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
"I think a primary might be helpful in this situation," he said. "Because whoever is going to face off against Mitch McConnell really needs to get their game in shape. Certainly Amy would be a favorite in any kind of primary, but I think it would help her and if somebody else could beat her they would have demonstrated their strength as well."
McGrath infuriated liberals across the country when she told the Courier Journal on Wednesday she would have voted to confirm Kavanaugh.
Hours later, she backpedaled and said she would have, in fact, not voted to confirm Kavanaugh to the high court.
Other Democrats have joined Yarmuth, who represents a major voice within the national party as chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, in believing that McGrath's early errors are reason for pause.
Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones said there is renewed interest from state Democrats in him running for Senate amid McGrath's troubled rollout.
The outspoken University of Kentucky sports superfan said voters are yearning for authenticity from those seeking public office, and that McGrath has fallen short of that in the first days of her campaign.
"I believe, in Kentucky, people are OK disagreeing with you if they believe you believe something strongly," Jones said in an interview Thursday. "The worst thing you can do is to seem like your beliefs are malleable, and what's unfortunate is that is the impression that the first 48 hours has given some people."
Jones is recognizable to most Kentuckians as the face of a media empire dedicated to the Bluegrass State's obsession with college athletics. He has flirted with running for public office for years, but he has struggled to get support from national party leaders.
"I still haven't heard from any national Democrats, and to be honest, at this point that doesn't matter to me one way or another," Jones said.
McGrath's stumbles began when she said in campaign announcement on MSNBC that McConnell hadn't done enough to help President Donald Trump keep his pledge to "drain the swamp" in Washington.
Democrats and Republicans alike scratched their heads at the former Marine aviator's explanation, but that didn't stop donors from pouring $2.5 million into her campaign coffers within 24 hours.
McGrath has raised another $1 million since Wednesday, according to her campaign.
"The record-breaking fundraising numbers show the unprecedented level of enthusiasm for Amy," Mark Nickolas, the McGrath campaign manager, said in a news release Thursday. "In just 24 hours, working people in Kentucky and across the country came together to support Amy McGrath's campaign against Sen. McConnell and his corrosive D.C. swamp politics."
McGrath's troubles continued when she said Kavanaugh was qualified to be on the Supreme Court, despite saying she thought Christine Blasey Ford's accusations that he sexually assaulted her as a teenager were credible.
"I think it's credible, but given the amount of time that lapsed in between and from a judicial standpoint, I don't think it would really disqualify him," McGrath said.
Asked Wednesday if that means she would have voted for Kavanaugh, she said: "You know, I think that with Judge Kavanaugh, yeah, I probably would have voted for him."
Later Wednesday, she changed her mind.
"I was asked earlier today about Judge Brett Kavanaugh and I answered based upon his qualifications to be on the Supreme Court. But upon further reflection and further understanding of his record, I would have voted no," McGrath tweeted.
"I know I disappointed many today with my initial answer on how I would have voted on Brett Kavanaugh. I will make mistakes and always own up to them. The priority is defeating Mitch McConnell."