State Sen. Max Wise answered questions and addressed concerns from a crowd made up mostly of school district employees during a Town Hall meeting on Monday evening at John Burr Memorial Gymnasium.
Wise covered a variety of topics, but focused on several hot button issues from the 2018 legislative session like the Kentucky teacher’s pension system and Gov. Bevin’s shocking comments.
“This was the toughest issue I’ve dealt with because of so many situations,” said Wise. “No one was saying ‘let the pension system go.’ I inherited this mess and I’ve only been in office four years while this problem was created decades ago by legislators, boards, and governors from both parties. But a lot of misinformation was spread and it affected me and my family.”
Wise pointed to several issues that helped create hostility across the state during the legislative session including Gov. Bevin’s incendiary comments.
Bevin said that he “guaranteed” children were physically harmed, poisoned, sexually assaulted and/or tried drugs after having the day off on Friday April 13; a day when teachers from across the commonwealth traveled to the state capitol to protest changes to current and future enrollees in the Kentucky teacher retirement system.
“If the governor had kept quiet and handled it differently, I don’t think it would have been the same situation and it we had more stakeholders involved in fixing the system, we could have had better communication,” said Wise.
When Wise and several other legislators came out and vocalized their opposition to Senate Bill 1, but a Facebook post went viral claiming that Wise had actually supported the bill that at the time would have cut retired teacher’s Cost-Of-Living-Adjustment from 1.5 percent to 1 percent and would have made several other major changes to the inviolable contract.
Wise says he also opposed the bill because there were never any options presented to actually fix the failing pension system.
“If we had passed that bill it would have just been another set of legislators passing the buck on down the road to the next group maybe five, ten, or even twenty years from now,” said Wise. “But I had someone come out on Facebook saying that I voted for the bill and it was an absolute lie and one that went absolutely viral. Social media has become a tool to spread misinformation and it’s so powerful that even the truth can get lost once something goes viral.”
Wise said that he and his family received threats in the weeks during and after the legislative session that has caused him to question his future in politics.
“I had a lot of stuff said to me from a lot of people and it wasn’t right and the governor’s comments were not right,” said Wise. “I’m running again this term but if what happened this session continues and I’m talking about communication issues, the process, and the noise, I won’t run again. But I hope the next time we deal with issues like this we do a better job before the legislative session starts to get ideas from people on all sides of the issue. I hope we can do a better job as individuals to work out our differences in a respectful way.”
Wise will continue his Town Hall meetings over the next few weeks at school systems in District 16 including Adair, Clinton, Cumberland, McCreary, Russell, Taylor, and Wayne counties.
By Adam Capps