Rep. Meade previews this year’s legislative session
Published 11:57 am Friday, January 12, 2018
By DAVID MEADE
It’s that time of year again, when my fellow lawmakers and I come to Frankfort for the yearly legislative session. Since this is a 60-day session, we have the enormous task of crafting an over $10 billion state budget.
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Developing a budget, as well as work on our immediate priority of reforming our broken pension systems, will keep us busy this session. However, just as we did last session in our first year of control of the House of Representatives, our House Majority is fully capable of coming in and doing the people’s business in a productive manner.
There is nothing more important during this moment in time than reforming our retirement systems, so that they will remain solvent for current and future workers. We are still working to revise and score the governor’s initial proposal, which myself and my House colleagues felt needed some reworking. Because of our enormous unfunded liability, which is in the billions, taxpayers face more expensive costs for government services, and our teachers and state workers face an uncertain retirement future.
While reform to the systems is certainly necessary, providing more funding is a large component of any pension effort. That is an action we are fully prepared to take, as we have an obligation to keep our promises to public employees. Meeting our obligations is a personal priority of mine, and we will be working with the governor’s budget proposal to come to a solution that does just that. Thankfully, the pension proposal currently under consideration adopts a level dollar funding approach, which requires future legislatures to appropriate a fixed amount each and every year, instead of backloading the systems and creating a larger liability.
While this effort will certainly make our budget tougher, it is our job as lawmakers to make tough, fiscally responsible decisions. Because Kentucky’s pension systems are among the worst funded in the nation, we are going to have to contribute up to $2 billion dollars over the next two years just to keep them solvent. This is on top of the current $156 million shortfall we are facing in this fiscal year. But even with our budgetary challenges, there are several other critical issues that the legislature will seek to address this year.
One issue that does not get nearly as much attention as the budget and pensions, but that is close to my heart, is adoption reform. The Adoption Working Group that I had the privilege of chairing over the last several months recently made recommendations to the House speaker as to how we can improve the adoption process. It is our goal to build legislation that will make adopting more efficient and effective by streamlining the bureaucracy, reducing costs, and putting more children into loving homes. Some of our recommendations include the following: establishing more accountability and oversight within the cabinet; utilizing technology to reduce paperwork; establishing a putative father registry; and improving efforts to recruit and retain valuable social workers. While this is a process that will be ongoing, I am optimistic that we can get legislation passed to make Kentucky the gold standard for handling children in out-of-home care.
Other issues that will be under consideration include legislation to address the existing skills gap among Kentucky’s workers, especially among young people, and revisions to our existing infrastructure funding formula. Our method of funding roads and bridges is antiquated, resulting in less and less available revenue to support critical road and bridge projects. Transportation investments are vital to economic development, particularly in the rural areas we live in, and it is critical that we have an effective system in place for making these investments.
Legislative sessions are always busy, but this one promises to be even more hectic due to the increasing challenges our commonwealth faces. We are tackling lots of big issues, making it all the more necessary for you to reach out to my office with any questions or concerns you may have. I look forward to hearing from you.
Rep. David Meade is the Majority Caucus Chairman in the State House of Representatives. He represents the 80th district, which includes Lincoln as well as part of Pulaski County. Contact him with any questions, concerns, or advice. He can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181, or via e-mail at David.Meade@lrc.ky.gov.