What's Best for Colorado's Public Workers?

January 2010

Shaffer, BrandonGroups and individuals who like Colorado's public employees' pension fund the way it is, are swallowing a bitter pill---make that a bitter "bill." Senate Bill 1 aims to hike employee and employer contributions to PERA and would cap annual cost-of-living adjustment for retirees at two percent. That's after a two-year freeze on any cost-of-living increases, which are traditionally about 3.5 percent a year, writes The Pueblo Chieftain. The changes, proposed by Senate President Brandon Shaffer, a Longmont Democrat, and Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, a Grand Junction Republican, are meant to salvage PERA, a fund upon which hundreds of thousands of Coloradans rely. "If we don't do something now, PERA will be insolvent," Shaffer (right) says (via 7News). Dozens of retirees filled the Capitol Building's Old Supreme Court Chambers during a hearing yesterday in which the bill advanced. Some were downright litigious. "I am adamantly opposed to any reduction in the contracted 3.5 percent cost of living adjustment for current and future retirees," says retired teacher Gary R. Justus, who estimates the bill, if passed as is, could cost some retirees upward of $500,000. "My objection to it is both legal and actuarial." But PERA is facing a $30 billion shortfall, and Penry explains, "The benefit structure is just far too generous, and the stock market plunged creating economic chaos."