Treasurer candidate visits Cortez

PERA contentious issue in state treasurer’s race

Betsy Markey visits with local residents as she campaigns for Colorado state treasurer. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Betsy Markey visits with local residents as she campaigns for Colorado state treasurer.

Betsy Markey, the Democratic candidate for state treasurer and a former congresswoman, stopped in Cortez Tuesday and promised to bring innovation and transparency to the office.

“People should know how they’re tax dollars are being spent,” she said.

Markey is facing incumbent Walker Stapleton in the November election and was highly critical of her opponent’s calls to reform the Public Employees Retirement Association into more of a 401(K) model that’s used in the private sector. There are 500,000 public employees who rely on PERA.

“I believe it is a retirement system that needs to be protected,” she said.

PERA is $26 billion in debt, and it was reformed in 2010 to require employees and employers to contribute more to the plan.

“We need to let those changes play out,” she said. If more reforms need to be made, she said she would work as a member of PERA’s governing board to make sure the changes were made in a bipartisan way.

However Michael Fortney a spokesman for Stapleton’s campaign, said that since the expected rate of return was lowered last year the 2010 reforms will not solve the problem.

“It is absolutely one of Treasurer Stapleton’s priorities to get PERA back on solid financial footing,” Fortney said.

Fortney also touted Stapleton’s first term accomplishments.

In the past four years, Stapleton completely overhauled the way debt is issued in Colorado, making it more transparent and accountable. He also restructured Colorado’s unemployment insurance, which has saved businesses up to $150 per employee, he said.

If re-elected, Fortney said Stapleton was planning to work on possible ways to help improve debt management standards within colleges, the Colorado Department of Transportation and other agencies.

Both candidates would carry impressive résumés.

Markey has run two small businesses and served in Congress from 2009 to 2010. Most recently she was the assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Stapleton served as the CEO and CFO of various private and publicly traded companies before taking office.