A few weeks ago, when we attended the Denver stop on the PERAtour, we noted that Executive Director Greg Smith repeatedly assured attendees that the retirement fund would be able to make pension payments to members “in perpetuity.” But he also said another financial crisis on the scale of the Great Recession would spell big trouble.
It seemed more than a little contradictory.
Vince Carroll, former Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News editorial page editor, picked up on this glaring inconsistency and dedicated his Sunday, June 4 column to it. Carroll wrote:
Well might you wonder: Why would a trust fund that can pay expected benefits to state employees and teachers, among other groups, until hell freezes over need a financial infusion? Why would lawmakers take such a request seriously?
But of course Smith was trying to have it both ways, with the result that his message was a head-snapping muddle.
The mixed-message PR carnival reinforces the increasingly obvious need for external pressure to force real change on the powerful, fortress-like Colorado PERA. As Carroll concludes:
PERA’s board and then the legislature will ultimately decide the nature of any reform package. And Gov. John Hickenlooper will obviously have a role as well. If he wants to add an unglamorous but vital achievement to his legacy, the governor should insist that any reforms — in contrast to 2010 — put PERA on a course toward genuine solvency that actually does ensure that anticipated benefits are paid out in perpetuity.
On this Sunday morning, can we get an “amen?”