Last week, the National Football League (NFL) reached a tentative deal with referees to end the labor dispute get them back on the field.
The labor dispute reached fever pitch when the Green Bay Packers had a game stolen from them on a missed call and then a terrible call by replacement referees.
The errors grabbed national headlines, and frustrated fans and others began to take a real interest in the underlying dispute.
At the heart of the disagreement is a desire by the league to move away from the current defined benefit program and replace it with a 401(k) style defined contribution plan.
The referees wanted to keep the current plan.
Does this sound familiar?
While the NFL was able to work out an agreement with its referees to move to a defined contribution system in 2016, here in Kentucky a special task force on pension reform is wrapping up its work in Frankfort to make recommendations for the future of Kentucky’s public pension systems.
The task force has heard testimony from a number of groups, including representatives of local governments, groups representing taxpayers’ interests, representatives of business, as well as employee unions and retirees.
For the first time in a long time, all the groups seemed to agree that there is a true crisis in Kentucky when it comes to funding of public pensions.
However, this crisis has real consequences for Kentucky families and hasn’t grabbed the public’s attention in the way the recent game has.
In Kentucky, we have a lot more at stake than the outcome of a football game.
Instead of missed calls and frustrated fans, it will mean major cuts to city services, directly affecting the quality of life of citizens.
In the end, we need a recommendation that can be embraced by labor and management as well as the House and Senate that provides a real solution for Kentucky’s cities.
Cities are urging the task force to develop a single comprehensive recommendation for the legislature to consider in the 2013 session that balances the need to have an affordable and predictable system with the needs of public employees.
The pension reform ball is in the hands of lawmakers, but we can’t wait until 2016 to make a play.
Lawmakers should note the important lesson learned by the NFL: even though the negotiation process was painful, the NFL found a financially- sound retirement system for the future to be worth it.
Jon Steiner is the Executive Director/CEO of the Kentucky League of Cities.