Thursday, January 28, 2016

KTRS survivor benefits bill heads to House

Spouses of deceased Kentucky public school teachers could remarry without losing survivor benefits from the state teachers’ retirement system under a bill passed today by the House State Government Committee.

“If this bill were to pass, if they were to go ahead and get married, they would not lose their spouse benefits. And I think that’s only fair because their spouse paid into the system,” said House Bill 172 sponsor Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro.

There are now 459 surviving spouses receiving Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS) survivor benefits who would lose those benefits if they remarry, said KTRS General Counsel Robert Barnes. The average monthly benefit drawn per individual is $1,777, he said.

While the system has not tracked those who have lost survivorship benefits due to remarriage before 2015, Barnes said retirement survivor benefits were revoked in two cases last year because the surviving spouses remarried. The revocation of those benefits, he said, cost the surviving spouses a combined $7,000 a year. 

“It would appear historically that the cost of this bill would be pretty minimal,” said Barnes, adding true actuarial analysis is pending.

Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville, said he thinks “it’s a shame that we do encourage folks to remain single even though they do wish to marry” but that the bill may need a qualifier for retaining benefits, perhaps based on length of marriage to the deceased spouse. “Maybe we can talk about some kind of qualifier to make sure the late spouse was a lifelong companion, but I think it’s a good bill,” he said.

A few other lawmakers on the committee also suggested tweaking the bill should it come to a vote on the House floor.

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, said HB 172 is a “pro-marriage bill” which he feels needs no added language. “This is a good bill as it is,” he said.

HB 172 now goes to the full House for consideration.