Recent anti-public-employee propaganda has reached a crescendo never before seen in America. The recent claim in TheNew York Times (March 11) that Colorado public pensions are 90 percent of working salaries is a blatant lie; educators pensions are based on years worked, and the average is more than 23 years, which means average pension is around 58 percent of ones final working salary.
Misstatements in the media about the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association and Colorado educators pensions need refutation. PERA is recovering from the Great Recession. After PERAs fund dropped from $41 billion to $29 billion in early 2009, recovery took the fund to approximately $38 billion. SB 1 became law and put PERA on a sustainable path.
Claims of collapse are false. The PERA fund is mending, and the national school administrators group considers it a model for one of the best U.S. public retirement funds.
Many folks have been told that the PERA fund is largely taxpayer money. Not so. Yes, public employees, such as teachers, are paid with taxpayer money, some of which goes into PERA, as a contribution toward their pension, but more than 80 percent of PERA pension funds are from worker contributions and investments. Right now, Colorado teachers are paying 8 percent of their salary for pensions.
Opponents of PERA want to politicize its board of trustees. Another bill attempts to increase the amount teachers pay into their pension. Finally, opponents want PERA in 401Ks, ending defined benefits and putting retirees at the mercy of Wall Street.
The above is a threat to education in Colorado as fewer students choose to become educators and opt for other employment. Do Coloradans want this damage to education?
Finally, Colorado public employees do not get Social Security. If PERA is damaged, no Social Security backup exists for teachers or any Colorado public employee. Every move to damage PERA threatens to put public employees including State Patrol, state judges, state and local government workers, educators, corrections, et al, into retirement poverty.
Don Gordon, president, La Plata School & Public Employees Retirement Association, Durango