We agree with the Denver Post that both the Guv (@hickforco) and Walker Stapleton (@walkerstapleton) deserve kudos for working together to petition the state Supreme Court to force PERA (Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association) to open the state’s pension fund ledgers for a better understanding of future liabilities.
It’s outrageous that the PERA board denied the state Treasurer’s (and, incidentally a freakin’ PERA trustee!) request for complete transparency in the first place — and then they successfully wooed the courts (thus far) to deny him a better look at the books.
PERA claims Stapleton’s data request is political in nature. Surely a part of it is (he is running for reelection). But he also has the right and responsibility to assure the viability of a pension system that at the end of the day has to be backed by taxpayer dollars. And it’s not currently self sustaining (thankfully wiser trustee heads at PERA made the recent small step toward fiscal sanity by lowering the expected rate of return down to 7.5% from 8% — so the underfunded taxpayer liability to the state pension is only $20-$25 BILLION give or take a few billion). The question isn’t whether PERA investments can return 7.5% or better in some future years. Simple fiscal prudence and responsibility to Colorado taxpayers demands a more conservative forecast. More reform is probably needed. But only after the all the books are openly shared with the trustees charged with overseeing the fund.
In this baby-step process of petitioning the courts for more transparency, Governor Hickenlooper is demonstrating his centrist, independent instincts. He could have punted by claiming that it was about politics instead of good government. Instead, he rose above rank partisanship to show thoughtful, responsible leadership in seeking to force PERA’s hand. With the terrible political year behind him and an election year looming, it was about time the Guv started governing from the rational, reasonable center. And instead of pillorying Stapleton, PERA and its defenders and apologists should applaud him for demanding sensible reform now — before the system collapses on itself.
- Colorado PERA drops its expected rate of return to 7.5% (bizjournals.com)
- Editorial: How will PERA do in long run? (denverpost.com)