PERA contentious at treasurer’s office

Keywords: Durango Herald,

The recent story concerning Betsy Markey running for state treasurer requires further explanation (Journal, Aug. 8). The spokesman for Walker Stapleton, current state treasurer, says “that since the expected rate of return was lowered last year, the 2010 reforms will not solve the problem.” That is not true. First, the state treasurer holds a permanent seat on the PERA board and it has been Stapleton’s agenda for the past four years to dismantle a very successful retirement system that has been doing the job for more than 80 years. The assumed rate of return that is referenced in the story is a number that all actuaries use as a goal.Stapleton used his position on the PERA board to pressure the board to lower that rate from 8 percent to 7.5 percent, thus increasing the projected amount of time to pay off all liabilities in 30 years. There was no other reason to lower the rate of return other than creating a point of contention.

The actual returns that PERA has managed since the 2008 recession has averaged over 10 percent, and has averaged over 9 percent for the past 30 years. The assumed rate of return makes no difference if it is 7.5 percent or 8 percent. The actual rate of return indicates the true recovery numbers. It is of interest that the 2013 numbers were released in late June and PERA was able to manage a 15.6 percent return.

PERA is a very successful and valuable economic driver for all of Colorado. Montezuma County, at last count, has 529 benefit recipients earning an annual retirement benefit of $15 million. Every recipient has contributed 8 percent of their salary to their retirement and PERA has managed these and the employers’ contributions very well. Because of the PERA retirement plan that was enacted over 80 years ago, no PERA recipient should ever be a burden to society. How much more American can that be? Betsy Markey is absolutely right when she states that “we need to let the changes made in 2010 play out.”

Roger Fulks