Beshear Signs Tornado Relief Bill, Talks Budget

During his Thursday afternoon news conference, hours before his scheduled State Budget Address, Governor Andy Beshear signed the western Kentucky tornado relief bill and discussed his budget proposal.

Lawmakers from cities hit by December’s storms joined Beshear for the signing of House Bill 5. It became law immediately upon his signature. Legislators passed the measure on Wednesday. It provides $200 million in relief for cities and other communities, including $45 million to help schools and to provide temporary housing.

Beshear said a new Natural Disasters Fund would be a focus of his budget address tonight. He stated he would ask lawmakers to allocate $100 million from Kentucky’s rainy-day fund to create a permanent fund that could immediately assist communities when disaster strikes. “The fund will include a no- and low-interest revolving loan program for local governments to help them respond as they await federal funding through FEMA or insurance claim proceeds,” Beshear added.

Also at the Capitol on Thursday, the House State Government Committee unanimously approved House Bill 76, sponsored by Representative Jerry Miller (R-Louisville). The KLC-supported bill would require pension systems to conduct an economic experience study every two years instead of five years. The measure also requires actuaries to project County Employees Retirement System (CERS) employer contribution rates over 30 years instead of the current 20-year timetable.

The bill impacts all state employee pension systems as well as CERS, the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS), and the Judicial Form Retirement Systems (JFRS). The first actuarial analysis on economic assumptions would take place before completion of the 2023 actuarial valuations.

Miller explained that the change would result in more accurate data to craft the state’s biennial budgets. “Since 2016, we’ve had some pretty big swings in our actuarial experience studies, and most of the impact comes through the economic assumption change, not the democratic assumption changes,” Miller said. “This bill would allow the demographic assumptions to stay on that five-year cycle because it’s very expensive to do those, but the economic assumptions, which is most of the impact of the evaluations, typically would be every two years.”

The House of Representatives could vote on the bill next week.

After the governor’s budget address, the General Assembly will recess until Tuesday, January 18, following the observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. state holiday.