DENVER – The board that oversees Colorado state pensions on Friday recommended higher contributions from employees and taxpayers along with cuts to retirees’ benefits, arguing that the changes are necessary to shore up the underfunded pension system.
The Denver Post first reported the board’s recommendations, which came at the end of a three-day retreat at a resort in Colorado Springs. Lawmakers must approve the changes as well.
The Public Employees’ Retirement Association is 58.1 percent funded, down from 62.1 percent in December of 2015, and more than 560,000 rely on it for retirement savings, according to the latest financial report on the pension system.
The recommendations include: cutting the annual cost-of-living adjustment from 2 percent that most retirees get to 1.5 percent and making 65 the eligible age for full retirement benefits for any employees who are hired starting in 2020.
The board also recommended increasing most employee contributions by 3 percent starting in 2020 to 11 percent total, plus increasing taxpayers’ payments toward the fund by 2 percent. For school districts, that adds up to an additional $86 million a year and $54 million for the state government division in additional pension costs.
“The recommendations from the PERA board reflect our commitment to ensuring the long-term health of the fund,” Chairman Timothy O’Brien said in a statement after Friday’s meeting. “We understand that these recommended changes will not be easy, but we believe shared impact across the membership and with employers are absolutely necessary.”
The last dramatic changes to the pension system came in 2010, when lawmakers approved benefit cuts and increased contributions over several years.
The latest proposal also asks lawmakers to give up some control over setting rates. The board’s package includes an automatic increase to contributions and cuts to cost-of-living adjustments based on the pension’s finances.
PERA Executive Director Gregory Smith said in a statement that the system will work with lawmakers to ensure the proposal “receives serious consideration” during next year’s legislative session.
“These changes impact every member, whether they are still working or retired and will require difficult sacrifices,” Smith said. “These modifications represent the ability of the plan to adapt to our changing environment while retaining the overall value of PERA for our membership, our employers, and Colorado.”