FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP/WBKO News Staff) -- The Kentucky Supreme Court has struck down a pension law that prompted thousands of teachers to protest at the state Capitol.
Kentucky has one of the worst funded public pension systems in the country. The state is at least $38 billion short of the money it needs to pay benefits over the next three decades.
In April, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signed a law that made changes to the pension system that would mostly affect future hires. Thousands of teachers protested, forcing the closure of more than 30 school districts.
Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear sued to block the law. On Thursday, the court ruled the law unconstitutional because the legislature didn't vote on it three times over three separate days as the state constitution requires.
Shortly after 11:30 Central time, Bevin held a press conference.
"Every time we put money into shoring up a system that people have allowed to continue leak, because 151 said we're going to at least put a band-aid at the bottom of the bucket," said Bevin. "And now, we've had a Supreme Court rip that band-aid off, so now, you're going to continue to see the hemorrhaging."
"We now have, on this sad day in Kentucky -- this financially irresponsible and sad day in Kentucky -- we now have not even the possibility of stopping that bleeding," continued Bevin.
Beshear released a statement on the decision, saying in part: "Today’s unanimous (7-0) ruling is a landmark win for every teacher, police officer, firefighter, social worker, EMS and all our hardworking public servants. It fully and finally voids the illegal cuts to their retirement, and clearly states that the governor and General Assembly violated the Constitution."
13 News spoke with some Barren County educators, who were relieved with the Supreme Court's decision, and are encouraging the state legislature to find the funds to pay for the pension.
"Work with members of the legislature to find common ground and a way to move forward," said Bo Matthews, the superintendent of Barren County Schools. "And in the meantime, we've got to continue to find a way to value those that have chosen to serve in public education."
"But first and foremost, the state needs to continue funding their portion," added Kelley Ross, a Barren County High School English teacher. "And they need to go back and fund the parts they have not. All of us in the pension system have paid our part."
Ross said dealing with the pension crisis last year was distressing and discouraging, with hopes that the next legislative session will be better than the last.