FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - The special session ordered by Gov. Matt Bevin on Monday ended Tuesday night with no deal.
Speaking in House Chambers at about 7:35 p.m., Acting House Speaker David Osborne (R-Prospect) said the special session needed to end, prompting large applause from his colleagues.
Bevin ordered the special session to hammer out a fix to the state's ailing pension program, demanding a new bill be proposed before the regular session begins on Jan. 8.
“So after doing our job, after doing what we owed the people of Kentucky to do, which was to come in here, take this mission seriously ... it has become clear that we need to bring this (special) session to a close,” Osborne said.
After the applause, Osborne paused, then said, “but before we do that,” prompting a brief breath of laughter from some who knew what was to come next. Osborne would go on to blast vocal Democrats and others who criticized efforts to reform the pension crisis.
Shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday, Bevin went on Facebook Live to offer his reaction at the Capitol.
“This may be one of the worst financial days to have ever descended upon the Commonwealth,” he said. “It should be of grave concern to taxpayers. The odds of them getting that pension just went down tonight."
He also talked to WAVE 3 News reporter Mike Fussell.
"They came back and tried to fix this, before the downgrades come, before this problem is exacerbated," Bevin said. "They came up short."
Asked if he thought the 24 hour special session was a waste of time or money Bevin said, it wasn’t.
Bevin said he called the special session partly because the state is in danger of a credit downgrade. And those fears may be warranted.
In the past two years, both Moody’s and the S and P have downgraded the state’s credit rating, partly due to concerns over the pension crisis.
According to S and P, an investment in the state is just two steps above an investment in a junk bond.
The lower the credit rating, the more tax payers are on the hook for substantially higher interest rates when the state borrows money.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat and they would come and attempt to do it again,” Bevin said.
Democratic leadership called the plans eventually put forward, which looked a lot like last session's Senate Bill 151, unpopular.
"The speaker is looking for excuses for why he cant pull his caucus together and get the votes he needs," Rocky Adkins, Minority Floor Leader, said.
Osborne disagreed, saying the decision was about needing more time.
“I think it was just a matter of the fact that we are in the confines of a five day session,” Osborne said.
Osborne added house members were ready to vote on the bill, but they did have some issue with the version they found, while working with the governor’s office.
“It caused them a great deal of consternation to come in here, to see the bills last night, and they finally got to see them, and they were not what they expected,” Osborne said.
The governor downplayed his role in pushing a particular bill, and called the discussion with leadership amicable.
“There’s never been anything done in this chamber likes was done last night,” Adkins said.
Within moments of Osborne’s announcement, reaction poured in from across the state.
Attorney General Andy Beshear:
“The governor’s attempt in the week before Christmas to cut the promised retirement of every teacher, police officer, firefighter, social worker, EMS and countless more public servants was wrong and cruel. Tonight, our values prevailed and partisanship took a backseat to what is right.”
Kentucky Government Retirees President Jim Carroll:
“We are gratified that the House has put an end to this expensive, secretive and poorly planned special session. There are important issues facing Kentucky Retirement Systems relating to funding methods and the declining participation of quasi-government agencies. Those issues can and should be addressed in a bipartisan manner in the regular session. Changes in future pension benefits have been demonstrated to produce ‘minimal’ actuarial savings. Finally, the legislature should just stop pretending that KRS wasn’t comprehensively reformed five short years ago and simply fund the pensions.”
Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler:
“The KEA applauds the members of the House for standing up against the political circus created by Governor Bevin and voting to adjourn the special session of the General Assembly. Real leadership from these legislators demonstrates what our Commonwealth desperately needs: Serious and sober consideration for the rule of law.
“Real and effective solutions to our pension systems will not be solved by political games and chaos created by an ineffective executive, but by engaging in a democratic process that allows all who have a stake in it to be heard. That includes educators, police officers, firefighters, public employees and the taxpayers of Kentucky. It’s our hope that a unanimous rebuke by the state Supreme Court last week and an admonishment by legislators tonight will finally make that clear to the governor.
“Serious issues and solutions should be considered critically and deliberatively. There is no room for shortcuts in democracy. It’s time the governor learned such an important lesson once and for all. It’s time he did what’s best for all Kentuckians, not just his own political agenda.”
Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Ben Self:
“Tonight’s adjournment is not only victory for our teachers, police, firefighters and other public employees, but also a victory for all Kentuckians. These two days, wasting more than $100,000, were a full display of Matt Bevin’s erratic and arrogant leadership.”
This story will be updated.