Having put forward commendable but inadequate recommendations for rescuing its funds from future insolvency, Colorado PERA this week will begin hearing what its members and retirees think about sharing the necessary sacrifices.
Expect some dissent from various quarters. The big questions will be how vociferously members and retirees express their displeasure, and whether this might lead to some wavering among legislators during the upcoming session.
PERA staff, led by Executive Director Greg Smith, will take the show on the road this month, to hear from constituents. PERATour 2 kicks off Tuesday, with two telephone town halls, one for retirees, one for active members. We will listen in and report back here.
Beginning Oct. 16 in Grand Junction, Smith and his merry band will visit a dozen communities across Colorado, ending with a session Nov. 2 in Denver.
The proposed plan spreads the pain around, required higher contributions from taxpayers and state and school district workers, and reduced cost-of-living increases for retirees. The Denver Post weighed in with an editorial this morning, generally praising the “aggressive” plan (we respectfully disagree about its aggressiveness) but urging PERA to “do more to shield taxpayers and current employees from the brunt of these reforms.”
PERA should do this, the Post opines, by “asking current retirees to take even more of a reduction in their guaranteed cost of living adjustment.” Currently retirees receive a 2 percent cost-of-living boost each year. The proposed plan calls for reducing that to 1.5 percent, after a two-year freeze, but the Post says 1 percent would be wiser.
Some dissenting voices argue that employer (taxpayer) contributions shouldn’t rise, and that instead current workers should have to shoulder the full burden by seeing an even greater increase in their required contributions. Until workers feel the full pain of PERA’s predicament, this argument goes, they won’t rise up and demand the magnitude of reforms required to make PERA solvent for the long term.
It’s an interesting argument, if a losing one, but still well worth airing.