The Post’s interest in PERA will help turn up the heat on legislature

The Denver Post’s Brian Eason has been doing a solid job covering Colorado PERA for the state’s largest newspaper. His latest piece, over the long Thanksgiving weekend, tidily sums up just how challenging it will be to forge a solution to PERA’s woes given political considerations in a gubernatorial election year, and disparate, even conflicting interests among potentially affected parties.

Eason’s story included this chart, from a PERA staff analysis, showing how the pension fund’s proposal differs from Gov. John Hickenlooper’s, in distributing the “shared sacrifice” that will have to be part of any solution:

We remain skeptical about any fixes to PERA’s massive unfunded liability problem that fails to include governance and structural changes that move significantly farther than these two modest proposals. There’s no doubt that 2018’s legislative session will feature PERA front and center, and that it could well be a major issue in what is shaping up to me a highly competitive race for governor.

The Post is showing interest not only by throwing precious reporting resources at the story, but by writing a series of editorials on the PERA issue as well. The latest, published on Thanksgiving, addresses the possibility of a state credit rating downgrade caused by PERA’s condition and the state’s prolonged failure to correct it. (The credit downgrade story, by the way, was first reported here, though the Post is taking credit for it).

Headlined “Don’t let PERA drag Colorado down,” the editorial urges legislators to avoid political gridlock ands to be thoughtful and deliberative in considering all options for PERA. It concludes with this plea:

We urge lawmakers to work now on their bills for the 2018 legislative session that begins in January so that legislation can be considered through the appropriate public process and not rushed through as an emergency bill in the final days.

Media attention on the issue can provide the kind of pressure needed to craft a creative and ambitious solution to PERA’s problems. The Post has been doing a solid job on this story. Here’s hoping they continue to focus on it.

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