Thinkstock by Getty ImagesDecades of overpromising and underfunding benefits have dug Colorado’s public pension system into a deep financial hole. Gov. John Hickenlooper and the board of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association have each proposed ways to address the looming crisis.
Re: “Colorado’s PERA calls $32 billion fix a ‘shared sacrifice,’ but current and future workers would shoulder $17.7 billion,” Nov. 24 news story.
While the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association does a slow meltdown, PERA’s board members continue to point fingers everywhere but themselves. Had the board done its fiduciary duty earlier, PERA would not be in this mess, which threatens the financial stability of the state. The entire board structure needs to be reevaluated to restore some lost credibility. Too many people on the board have a vested interest in keeping retirement pay high. The governor needs to step in to restructure the board while taxpayers still own a shirt.
Michael R. Hudson, Pueblo
Currently the PERA board is composed solely of PERA beneficiaries — sort of like letting the kids run the candy store. How about some representation for the taxpayers who ultimately pay the bills?
As a public entity, PERA is stubborn at releasing relevant information, e.g.: How many PERA recipients receive salaries for not working in order to avoid federal excise taxes for a pension that exceeds the IRS section 415 limit of $215,000? What is the mean retirement age? How many retirees participate in PERACare?
This data is important, as many suspect that PERA benefits greatly exceed those available to taxpayers who, by law, are required to fund PERA via taxes. Most of us work hard, don’t get to retire at 60, or get retiree health care.
Doug Webb, Aurora
As we try to find a solution to the looming PERA crisis, it is worth noting that the real culprits have not only gotten away with destroying state pensions throughout the U.S., but continue to exacerbate the problem. For example, our state government continues to push “educational reform” policies such as excessive testing and a ridiculously onerous teacher evaluation system (neither has increased any meaningful achievement), and coupled with the media’s continual scapegoating of teachers for societal problems, we have created a shortage of teachers, the very ones we need to pay into a pension system to keep it going.
Additionally, the big banks, speculators and insurance giants responsible for the stock market meltdown of 2007 have walked away largely unscathed and are now making record profits. Is it too much to ask that a tax be imposed on them with the express purpose of refunding the pension systems that were decimated through their misdeeds?
Let’s not lose sight of how we got in this mess and let us especially not fall for the usual government and business ploy of pitting us against each other when they screw up.
Gerry Camilli, Englewood
As a retired teacher who did not choose a life of poverty and has gladly made many sacrifices from the time I entered my field, I go to my second job as a cashier to have a wonderful experience. A former student once saw me and said to her daughter, “Guess what, Ms. Magnuson used to be my teacher, she taught me to speak English.” My former student proceeded to give me a hug and said, “Thank you.”
I may be facing a reduction in my PERA cost-of-living adjustment, which will reduce my purchasing power during the time in my life when my body is declining in earning power, but I am still the richest teacher ever because of experiences just like that one.
Karen D. Magnuson, Aurora
The writer is executive director of the Colorado School and Public Employees Retirement Association (CSPERA), a non-profit organization supported by the dues and contributions of employed and retired PERA participants.
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