It seems like protecting pensions is a never-ending battle these days. The year 2017 certainly saw its share of attacks on the retirement security of teachers, firefighters, nurses, and other public employees. Before we look ahead to next year, it’s time to consider the outcome of some fights that occurred this year.

  • Kentucky: For most of the year, Gov. Matt Bevin promised to call a special legislative session, initially to deal with tax reform and public pensions, and then, just to address public pensions. Despite his repeated promises, it appears that 2017 will come to an end without a special session in Kentucky. Many questioned the cost of holding a special session, which would have been upwards of $325,000 at the minimum. It is also obvious at this point that Gov. Bevin does not have support in the legislature for his harsh pension-cutting legislation. While avoiding a special session was a win for working families in the Bluegrass State, it seems likely that Gov. Bevin and his allies in the legislature will push for similar legislation during the regular legislative session in 2018. Since Kentucky’s legislature convenes on January 2nd, supporters of public pensions should be prepared to fight off attacks as soon as the new year begins.
  • Michigan: This year, Michigan’s governor convened a task force on “Responsible Retirement Reform for Local Government.” The task force unanimously adopted recommendations calling for greater transparency and oversight of the hundreds of individual pension plans offered by local governments in Michigan. The expectation was that the legislature would approve the unanimous recommendations of the task force and move on to other pressing issues. However, some anti-pension ideologues in the Michigan legislature hijacked the process and attempted to pass sweeping and harmful legislation that would have gone far beyond the recommendations of the governor’s task force. Fortunately for the police officers, firefighters, and other municipal employees that would have been affected, this radical and far-reaching plan suffered from a major lack of support in the legislature. The legislation was abandoned and the legislature adopted the task force’s recommendations.

We should all take a moment to celebrate these wins as we prepare for the fights that lie ahead in 2018.