Politics

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin announced Monday that a long-awaited special legislative session aimed at delivering pension relief for regional universities and a multitude of quasi-governmental agencies will start later in the week.

Lawmakers will reconvene starting at 8 a.m. Friday at the state Capitol in Frankfort, the Republican governor’s office said. An official proclamation listing the special session’s agenda will be issued later this week, Bevin’s office said in a news release.

Bevin has spent weeks trying to build support for his proposal to cushion regional universities and quasi-public agencies — which include county health departments and rape crisis centers — from surging pension costs that started this month.

In recent weeks, Bevin’s team expressed confidence that he had secured enough votes to pass his proposal. Besides the complexities of the pension issue, another complication for Bevin was trying to schedule a special session amid lawmakers’ long-planned vacations and other commitments.

The governor rolled out his replacement proposal more than two months ago. It would replace a measure Bevin vetoed in April after the Republican-dominated legislature had ended its regular session.

“This bill has been thoroughly vetted and improved with input from legislators,” the Monday release from Bevin’s office said. “It is the only fiscally responsible plan that provides our regional universities and quasi-governmental agencies with a plan to a sustainable future.”

State leaders worry that inaction on the pension issue would strain the quasi-public agencies and lead to some bankruptcies, elimination of staff and loss of critical services for Kentuckians.

The proposal previewed by Bevin’s administration would allow the agencies to stay with the Kentucky Retirement Systems at full cost; leave the retirement system by paying a lump sum equal to future projected benefits payments; or buy their way out in installment payments over 30 years. It extends a freeze on pension costs for another year for the regional universities and quasi-public agencies.

Bevin recently agreed to a handful of changes to his proposal in hopes of breaking weeks of gridlock.

One key change pushed back the deadline for affected agencies to decide until next April 30, after the conclusion of next year’s legislative session. That would give lawmakers time to make changes to deal with any issues that might come up.

Bevin has been wrangling with the politically sensitive pension issue as he seeks reelection this year. The governor is being challenged by his political nemesis, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, in the November election.