Stapleton is Lone Dissenter on PERA Board Recs to Legislature



Stapleton is Lone Dissenter on PERA Board Recs to Legislature


DENVER, COLO. – September 22, 2017 – Today, the board of Colorado’s Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) voted to send recommendations for a “reform” package to the legislature.  However, given that it does nothing to address the fund’s faulty rate of return and asks for an increase in employer contributions, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton cast the lone dissenting vote. 


“For seven years, PERA leadership disingenuously told people in every corner of Colorado that no further reforms were needed and disparaged me in the process for simply making political hay,” Stapleton said. “Now they’re trying to untangle themselves from years of mismanagement with proposals that will take money out of classrooms and unfairly burden taxpayers who are already paying their fair share.  It’s not something I can support.” 


Colorado’s public pension system still faces a $32 billion unfunded liability despite past attempts to save it.  And while Stapleton believes that a discussion about serious reforms is needed, he strongly believes that those reforms should 1) abandon the fund’s unobtainable rate of return and 2) not unfairly burden taxpayers by asking state agencies and school districts to pay more.  Yet, what the PERA board approved today does not address the rate of return at all, and asks the legislature to approve a 2 percent increase in employer contributions, with an automatic trigger that will increase it another 2 percent if the fund remains insolvent in the future.


That means that 2 to 4 percent of a school district’s budget could be diverted away from classrooms to pay for a bankrupt pension system.  During the 2017 legislative session, Stapleton championed a bill that would have capped employer contributions at 2018 levels, which will top out at more than 20 percent.  In Douglas County Schools, for example, they paid $54.5 million into PERA in 2016, which makes up 20.5 percent of their payroll costs.  That represents a 100 percent increase from the 10 percent they paid in 2007. 


“We can’t keep going back to taxpayers for more money without making any structural changes to actually fix what is broken,” Stapleton said.