OWENSBORO, Ky, (WBKO) -- Governor Matt Bevin spoke in Owensboro to address Kentucky's state-funded pension crisis on Tuesday.
Bevin spoke on the propposal he introduced to help fund the pension system that he believes can't succeed if action isn't taken.
"A promise, no matter what that promise is, is only is only as good as the ability of the person who made the promise to deliver on it," Bevin addressed to a crowd at the Owensboro Convention Center.
Bevin explained just how important it is to fulfill promises of a secure future made to every state employee in Kentucky.
"The people think, 'well, this governor, this administration, they don't get it. They don't understand," he said.
"Baloney," as he called it. "I don't just have sympathy for it, I have empathy for it, and there's a big difference between the two. Sympathy is you emotionally feel sorry for someone. Empathy, you literally know what they're going through."
Bevin addressed his belief that this problem is a "harsh reality", one that has to be addressed before the state of Kentucky becomes insolvent.
He and his administration have been met with backlash for his proposal. Some of those in opposition believe the pension system could survive as it is now, but Bevin says anybody that leads you to believe it isn't a broken system is lying.
"Myself and this administration, we're the whipping boys, we're the ones being attacked for actually doing what others would say they would do, but never did," Bevin explained. "Nobody was upset with the people who lied. The liars, good, just keep lying to us. You deserve better than that if you're somebody who's in this system. You deserve better than that if you're not in the system, but you're paying for it as a taxpayer. Everybody in this state deserves better than being lied to."
Bevin went on to say that the current system relies on assumptions that have turned out to be wrong.
"Payroll growth was not growing by four percent, which is what has been assumed for years in this state," he said. "We've been assuming that it's growing by four percent when everyone knew that was a lie. under this administration, the one that preceded me for eight years, and the one before that, it has been declining."
Under Bevin's proposal, current state employees would be asked to contribute 3% of pay toward their healthcare retirement, an idea which Bevin says has been incorrectly viewed as a pay cut.
"The only thing that it can be used for is to pay for the healthcare benefits of that same worker," he told reporters, "We're not cutting anybody's pay. That's one thing that has been misunderstood. Nothing in this bill proposes, nor has anyone ever proposed to cut anybody's pay at any level, a teacher, a highway worker, or anyone."
Bevin said he knows his proposal isn't perfect, and that no plan is perfect, but something needs to be done now, as it could be just a few years until the first wave of state employees start losing the benefits they were promised.
He says this proposal is not a short-term solution, and in fact, looks 30+ years into future, hoping to put Kentucky in a secure spot, so they can pay off outstanding debts.
Bevin said he wants to make sure the state climbs out of the hole to keep further generations of Kentuckians in Kentucky.