The current pension crisis has inspired heated debate. The magnitude of the situation is undeniable. After all, we’re talking about our state government blatantly stealing from public employees for years and then attempting to deliver less than promised when trouble arises.
Both sides should be doing everything they can to fix this problem. That said, I’m writing to point out part of the systemic problem in Frankfort that contributes to such a crisis. Politicians often say one thing and do another. That happened here.
This quote comes from a YouTube video of Rep. Coursey posted by the House Democratic Caucus on Aug. 29 of this year. Coursey states, “I cannot and will not support this shameful attack on our public employees and our school teachers. I will defend the inviolable contract with all I have. Decisions like the ones we’re about to make, that truly determine whether our employees can retire in moderate comfort or spend their twilight years digging ditches, shouldn’t take a second to consider. Promises made should certainly be promises kept.”
For Rep. Coursey to speak so passionately about supporting public employees and teachers, it’s incredibly disappointing to find out that he voted in favor of raiding the Public Employee Health Insurance Trust Fund three separate times. In 2009, Rep. Coursey voted in favor of House Bill 143 that raided the fund of $50 million. In 2014, Rep. Coursey voted in favor of House Bill 235 that raided the fund of $93 million. And finally, in 2015, Rep. Coursey voted in favor of House Bill 510 that raided the fund of $63.5 million. That’s a total of $206.5 million dollars that your state representative voted in favor of taking from the Public Employee Health Insurance Trust Fund to spend elsewhere.
Here’s a quote from the Courier Journal: “Those savings should have been left alone and used to avoid future premium increases and/or benefit reductions,” said Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association. “We are a self-insured fund. Money saved in one cycle can affect the plan design and costs in the next.”
Some lawmakers contend that since the premiums and claims are all paid, then there’s nothing wrong with tapping the fund to pay for other items. Another quote from the Courier Journal in 2015 states, “Rep. Rick Rand, who chairs the House budget committee, said House and Senate leaders agreed to the move because it still leaves a healthy balance to ensure all claims can be paid by the health insurance fund, and because money was badly needed in other areas.”
There was no excuse for Rep. Coursey to vote in favor of raiding the fund. The entire $206.5 million should have gone directly toward the $30 billion pension deficit. If Rep. Coursey truly believes that, “Promises made should certainly be promises kept,” why would he have ever voted to raid the Public Employee Health Insurance Trust Fund three times? The truth is that he has no good answer. Our public employees and teachers deserve better.