A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Gov. Bevin’s busy afternoon in NKY focuses on some of the region’s, and the state’s, most important issues

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin made the most of his afternoon in Northern Kentucky Wednesday.

Gov. Bevin (left) speaks about his “Keeping the Promise” pension reform proposal at Receptions in Erlanger Wednesday (photos by Mark Hansel).

In a span of about four hours, he explained the need for his proposed “Keeping the Promise” pension reform plan to be approved, at a forum in Erlanger, cut a ribbon in Covington and visited a residential addiction treatment facility in Florence.

At 1 p.m. Bevin spoke at the forum at Receptions in Erlanger to discuss the upcoming Special Session of the Kentucky General Assembly which will address the Commonwealth’s pension crisis. The event was sponsored by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Bevin who announced the plan last week with Senate President Robert Stivers, and House Speaker Jeff Hoover, said he has the votes to get it approved, but he would like some support on both sides of the aisle.

“We don’t want to ram it down anyone’s throats,” he said.

He encouraged business and community leaders to call their legislators and ask them to support the plan.

“This is a problem that other cities and other municipalities and counties and local jurisdictions and the federal government have just been kicking, and kicking, and kicking and kicking,” Bevin said. “Kentucky is going to step up and take the point on this, because somebody has to. If we are as bad as anybody, and truth be told, we’re one piece of about a four-to-five-trillion-dollar underfunded problem.

There are more than 13,000 people eligible for retirement, statewide.

Bevin’s appearance came less than 24 hours after hundreds of teachers spoke in opposition to the proposal at a rally at Dixie Heights High School.

Bevin acknowledged that the plan is not going to make everybody happy, but it does fulfill promises and allows anybody who is eligible to retire to get everything they were promised. He said among teachers, for example, the plan even takes care of those who are not considered vested.

An overflow crowd was on hand to hear Gov. Bevin speak about the need for pension reform in Kentucky.

“We need teachers, we want teachers, they were expecting to work for 27 years and be able to retire, if they were so inclined, and we are going to give them that opportunity,” Bevin said. “We have given people in this plan things they are not even entitled to, but we’ve done it because it’s the right thing to do and it’s good for Kentucky.”

Some teachers have expressed concerns that they may have to take a 3 percent pay cut, but Bevin said that is a complete falsehood.

“I don’t know where they’re seeing that,” Bevin said. “That’s not actually anywhere in anything. There is no decrease. It is a 3 percent contribution for their health care coverage – that’s it.”

New teachers and new public employees would be moved to a plan similar to the 401(k)-style offered in the private sector.

Kentucky’s pension system which had a deficit of $40 billion deficit, is one of the worst-funded in the country. Bevin said the additional cost to municipalities, counties and districts is expected to be $365 million statewide, in the next fiscal year.

The proposal, if approved in its current form, will require the state government to fully pay for the pension costs.

“That means some belt-tightening and work to be done by legislators,” Bevin said. “That’s 20 percent of the state budget. That’s a pretty steep price, but we have no choice, so we’re going to do it.”

Bevin could not provide a date when the special session will begin, but lawmakers the Tribune has spoken with say they expect it to take place in November. The 400-page bill has been drafted and is currently being reviewed.

CTI Ribbon Cutting

Bill Butler, CEO of Corporex, talks about the “wins” the community is experiencing as a result of CTI’s decision to relocate its headquarters to Covington’s RiverCenter. At right are Dan Tobergte, CEO of Tri-ED (standing), Gov. Matt Bevin, Timothy Schroeder, CEO of CTI, and Kenton County Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann.

Bevin’s next stop was RiverCenter for a ribbon-cutting for CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting Services, which recently completed the move from Blue Ash to its new headquarters in Covington.

CTI began looking into locations for a new headquarters in 2015, when the company’s growth, both locally and internationally, made it clear that a new space was needed. After an extensive search, it chose Covington and the RiverCenter complex. CTI now occupies eight floors of RiverCenter Towers.

Bill Butler, CEO of Corporex, owner of the RiverCenter complex, said CTI’s decision to move to Covington was a win on many fronts.

“The first win is obviously for Corporex and its employees,” Butler said. “The second win is for the community, and when I say that, I’m not just mentioning Covington, but Northern Kentucky and the state, all one community. A third win that really stuck out to me is the friendship that we’ve been awarded with already, by the people of CTI.”

Butler credits Bevin for helping bring the CTI deal to fruition.

“I’ve worked with a lot of governors over time, and we’ve had a lot of good governors, but I’ve never worked with one like this,” Butler said. “This gentleman called me on a Friday night at 9:30, still working, knew all the details of the transaction, as we were getting close to the final proposals and negotiations. I was amazed at his energy and his commitment and his determination to win.”

Gov. Bevin and CTI CEO Tim Schroeder, surrounded by business leaders, elected officials and stakeholders, cut the ribbon officially welcoming CTI to RiverCenter and Covington.

Timothy Schroeder, CEO of CTI, said he was struck by the thought that everyone in the crowd for the ceremony had a role in the company’s decision to relocate to Covington.

“They say it takes a village, I think it took more than a village for our relocation here,” Schroeder said. We went to Blue Ash and were there 12 years and we grew the company tenfold. When it came to choosing the next headquarters location, we wanted to pick a spot that was going to suffice for that same type of growth for the next 15 years.”

Schroeder added that there were a lot of factors that went into the decision of where to relocate, but what put Covington over the top was its people.

“We were wowed by the people coming in and in the few months we’ve been here we’ve only found that experience to continue to escalate,” Schroeder said.

Bevin said it was an honor to work with groups that bring people together to create opportunities.

“I love putting deals together – I love to see jobs created out of ideas and out of people talking and collaborating,” Bevin said.

Bevin added that he knew from the initial conversations with Schroeder that he had an entrepreneurial spirit and he was the type of person that would bring a sense of commitment to the community that resonates with Northern Kentuckians.

He thanked the CTI employees who made the move to Northern Kentucky and said they will be rewarded for the decision because Northern Kentucky is a special place.

“There is something about this community, the work ethic and the caliber of the people,” Bevin said. “There’s a certain thread that weaves through this part of Kentucky and this part of the country that’s special. Those of you at Corporex and CTI who are now coming together, are part of the fabric and part of the thread that makes that incredible tapestry.”

Brighton Recovery Center tour

Bevin next headed to Boone County to tour the Brighton Recovery Center for women.

Gov. Bevin speaks with Anita Prater (center), Brighton Recovery Center for Women Director, and Tammy Weidinger, CEO of Brighton Center, during a tour of the facility Wednesday.

The Recovery Center is a 100-bed facility that utilizes recovery dynamics curriculum and is a peer-driven model of recovery. It is a program that helps women recover from chronic substance abuse and addiction, and move toward a life of sobriety and productivity.

Stays at the center can range from nine months to more than two years, if the women choose to become a peer tutor. The average length of stay is 12 to 15 months.

Bevin toured the living quarters and addressed many of the women in the dining area during dinner.

“Let me just say this, thank you for being here and for following through on this,” Bevin said. “The upside possibility in life is limitless, it truly is. I’m just grateful to each of you for being here and for being committed to doing everything that is possible.”

Tammy Weidinger, president and CEO of Brighton Center, said it means a lot that the governor of the state would make time to give some words of encouragement to the women.

“I think the women come here, without much hope, without a lot of self-concept and when they see people rally around them, I think it keeps them connected and centered with the program,” Weidinger said. “It also means a lot to the staff who work hard every day. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like your work isn’t recognized or is taken for granted. I’m glad the governor sees this as a priority for the state.”

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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