Last year, thousands of Kentucky teachers staged a walkout and rallied against proposed cuts to their retirement benefits by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and the state's GOP-led legislature. In Tuesday's gubernatorial election, they're getting the chance to fight Mr. Bevin head-on.
The tight race between Mr. Bevin and Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear could have big implications in a state with one of the worst-funded public employee retirement systems in the U.S. Kentucky's efforts to rein in a $45 billion pension burden have been complicated by constitutional limits on cuts to benefits and lawmakers' resistance to raising taxes — tensions that are playing out in statehouses across the country.
Mr. Bevin, who was elected in 2015, earned the teachers' ire by trying to move them from a traditional pension plan to a 401(k)-style plan and for criticizing the walkout. He has the support of President Donald Trump, who's tweeted his endorsement and is holding a rally Monday night in Lexington. Mr. Beshear says he wants to maintain workers' pensions and favors using revenue from new taxes on gambling and medical marijuana to shore up the system.
Teachers have helped lead the charge against Mr. Bevin, donning the "Red for Ed" shirts that have become synonymous with teacher strikes across the country and knocking on doors after school. "We're absolutely backing Andy Beshear — the guy who has fought with us and not the guy who has fought us," said Jeni Bolander, a high school teacher who was among those who protested last year.