Gov. Steve Beshear, legislative leaders of both parties worked together to overhaul pensions
By ROGER ALFORD Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Kentucky — With a Republican-controlled Senate and a Democratic-led House, the Kentucky Legislature had been mired in political gridlock through most of the past decade.
Frankfort political leaders believe passage of a complicated pension overhaul Tuesday is a clear indication that things have changed.
Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and Republican Senate President Robert Stivers had promised a new day of bipartisan cooperation coming into the legislative session in January. Both political leaders, along with Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo, cited pension reforms as evidence that they held true to their word.
Week after week, they continued talks until they arrived at a compromise. Republicans conceded to tweaks to the state tax code to generate money for pensions. Democrats accepted a 401(k)-like retirement plan for newly hired state workers.
“It was truly remarkable what we got done on pensions,” said House Majority Whip Tommy Thompson, the Owensboro Democrat who participated in talks. “I had not seen that degree of congeniality in some time.”
Soon after the pension reform bill had passed Tuesday night, Beshear appeared in his press briefing room with Stivers, Stumbo and a bipartisan group of other lawmakers to praise their cooperation.
In particular, Beshear pointed to Stivers for his exemplary leadership. Stivers in turned credited Beshear.
“We sent a positive message that we did what our constituents wanted us to do,” Stumbo said. “I think that that is a ray of hope that we sent out not only across Kentucky, but across the nation, that not every government that’s divided along political lines has to end up in gridlock.”