CO Public Worker Groups Fracture over PERA Fix

April 12, 2006 ( - A coalition of 10 public-employee groups has split from the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) over proposals designed to bridge a funding shortfall in the state's largest pension plan.

The Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security, a new group representing more than 100,000 Colorado public workers, said Tuesday it opposes any structure that would pay future hires lower pension benefits than current workers, according to a Denver Post news report.

For its part, PERA, which covers 370,000 members, backs a bill that would funnel a portion of contributions from future hires to overcome an $11.3-billion shortfall (See Colorado PERA Issues Funding Reform Proposal ). Future hires would also receive reduced retirement benefits.

Another bill backed by Governor Bill Owens and Treasurer Mike Coffman would do the same while pumping a portion of future pay hikes into the plan (See PERA Reform Bill Introduced in CO Legislature ).

“Our opposition to the two- tier system is firm,” Lynne Garramone Mason, who handles government relations for the Colorado Education Association, told the Post. “It is not fair to balance PERA on the backs of new employees.”

The opposition represents a strong head wind for the two PERA bills, which have not advanced since their introduction.

“The two-tier system was dead on arrival. It was a nonstarter,” Miller Hudson, executive director of the Colorado Association of Public Employees, told the newspaper. Hudson said PERA, in a series of meetings with its members, gave the impression that everything would be OK. “They caught us by surprise,” he said of PERA’s proposal to create a two-tier system.