Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Legislation & Governance

2020 Proposed Legislation Status

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A summary of proposed legislation affecting Colorado PERA. Check back often for new bills and updated status reports. Last updated: July 14, 2020.


HB 20-1379

Suspend Direct Distribution To PERA Public Employees Retirement Association For 2020-21 Fiscal Year

Concerning suspending the direct distribution to the public employees’ retirement association for the 2020-21 state fiscal year, and, in connection therewith, reducing an appropriation.

Bill summary: Current law provides for an annual direct distribution, currently set at $225 million, to PERA until fully funded status is attained.

The bill would suspend that direct distribution for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Sponsors: Rep. Kim Ransom (R-Douglas County) | Sen. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale)

Bill Status: Passed by the House and Senate. Sent to the Governor for signature on 6/6. Signed by Governor on 6/29.

Bill History: Bill introduced 5/26, assigned to House Appropriations committee. House Appropriations referred the bill, unamended, to House Committee of the Whole on 5/27. Bill passed Second Reading unamended on 6/1. Bill passed House on Third Reading on 6/3: Aye-48, No-14, Other-3.

Bill introduced in Senate on 6/3. Senate Appropriations referred unamended to Senate on 6/4. Bill passed Second Reading unamended on 6/5. Bill passed Senate on Third Reading on 6/6: Aye-28, No-5, Other-2.

Board position: The PERA Board, as fiduciaries and pursuant to their funding policy, opposes reductions in contributions to PERA while PERA has unfunded liabilities.


HB 20-1394

Public Employees’ Retirement Association Judicial Division Contribution Rate Modification

Concerning a modification to the contribution rates to the public employees’ retirement association for the judicial division of the association for certain fiscal years, and, in connection therewith, reducing an appropriation.

Bill summary: The bill addresses contribution rates for employers and employees in the judicial division, which is made up of judges.

The bill would decrease the employer contribution rate by five percent for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 state fiscal years. For those same fiscal years, the employee contribution rate would rise by five percent.

The changes do not apply for employer or member contributions for judges employed by the Denver county court. The bill does not change contribution rates for any other division of PERA

Sponsors: Rep. Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon) | Rep. Kim Ransom (R-Douglas County) | Sen. Dominick Moreno (D-Commerce City) | Sen. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale)

Bill Status: Passed by the House and Senate. Sent to the Governor for signature on 6/5. Signed by Governor on 6/29.

Bill History: Bill introduced 5/26, assigned to House Appropriations . House Appropriations referred the bill, with amendments, to House on 5/27. House Second Reading passed with amendments (committee) on 6/1. Bill passed House on Third Reading on 6/3: Aye-64, No-0, Other-1.

Bill introduced in Senate on 6/3. Senate Appropriations referred unamended to Senate on 6/4. Bill passed Second Reading unamended on 6/4 Bill passed Senate on Third Reading on 6/5: Aye-33, No-0, Other-2.

Board position: The PERA Board, as fiduciaries and pursuant to their funding policy, opposes reductions in contributions to PERA while PERA has unfunded liabilities.


SB 20-057

Fire Prevention & Control Employee Benefits

Concerning the inclusion of firefighters employed by the Department of Public Safety in the Division of Fire Prevention and Control in certain employee benefits.

Bill summary: Currently, wildfire firefighters employed by the state contribute to PERA and receive benefits as determined by standard PERA Tables. This bill would reclassify these firefighters as “safety officers,” which would adjust their contribution rates and benefits to those found on PERA’s Safety Officer Tables, formerly known as Trooper Tables.

This move would result in a higher contribution rate for both employees and employers and would allow firefighters to qualify for full-service retirement at a younger age than other PERA members. These changes would apply only to service credit earned after the bill goes into effect.

The bill also addresses other benefits available to firefighters.

Sponsors: Sen. Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs) | Rep. Marc Snyder (D-Manitou Springs) and Rep. Lisa Cutter (D-Littleton)

Bill Status: Passed House and Senate. Sent to Governor for signature on 6/9. Signed by Governor on 6/29.

Bill History: Bill introduced 1/8. Senate Finance approved the bill on 1/28. Senate Appropriations passed with amendments on 3/6. Passed third reading on 3/11: Aye-32, No-3, Other-0.

Introduced in House on 3/11. House Finance referred unamended to Appropriations on 5/28. House Appropriations referred unamended to House on 6/3. Passed House second reading on 6/8. Passed third reading on 6/9: Aye-53, No-9, Other-3.

PERA Board position: The PERA Board of Trustees considered this bill on their January 17 meeting and decided to not take a position.


HB 20-1127

Extend Public Employees’ Retirement Association Retiree Work After Retirement Limit

Concerning an extension of the employment-after-retirement limitations for retirees of the public employees’ retirement association employed by a board of cooperative services after retirement.

Bill summary: Boards of cooperative services (BOCES) provide special education services to the school districts they serve. Almost all of these school districts are in rural parts of the state, and it is difficult for BOCES to find qualified people to serve as special service providers in these areas.

BOCES could address this issue by hiring PERA retirees to fill these roles, but PERA’s working-after-retirement provisions, including the limitation on the number of days in a calendar year that a service retiree may work for a PERA employer without a reduction in benefits, could be a barrier for some retirees.

The bill modifies the current PERA working-after-retirement provisions for certain retirees hired by a BOCES if:

  • The BOCES hires a retiree to provide services in two or more rural school districts;
  • The BOCES hires the service retiree to provide special services to students; and
  • The BOCES determines that there is a critical shortage of special service providers and that the retiree has specific experience, skills, or qualifications that would benefit the districts that the BOCES serves.

Under the bill, a PERA retiree who is a special service provider and who is hired by a BOCES may receive salary without a reduction in benefits for any length of employment in a calendar year.

The bill requires a BOCES that hires a PERA retiree to provide full payment of all PERA employer contributions, disbursements, and working retiree contributions. In addition, the BOCES is required to pay an additional amount equal to two percent of the retiree’s salary to PERA.

A PERA retiree may not work under these modified rules for more than five consecutive years. All BOCES combined may hire no more than 40 people over five years.

PERA is required to submit a report to the general assembly regarding specified aspects of the extension of PERA’s working-after-retirement limitations.

Sponsors: Rep. Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon) | Rep. Barbara McLachlan (D-Durango) | Sen. Nancy Todd (D-Aurora) | Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling)

Bill Status: Passed House and Senate. Sent to Governor for signature on 6/1. Signed by Governor on 7/13.

Bill History: Bill introduced in House on 1/15. House Finance approved the bill on 2/10. House Appropriations approved the bill on 2/21. Bill passed Third Reading on 2/28: Aye-50, No-13, Other-2.

Introduced in Senate on 3/2. Senate Finance referred unamended on 3/12. Bill passed Third Reading on 6/1: Aye-28, No-7, Other-0.

PERA Board position: The PERA Board of Trustees considered this bill on their January 17 meeting and decided to not take a position.

Comments

  1. Tim Hoopingarner says:

    I wonder if the Windfall Elimination discussion is still alive at either the State or National level. This would be a lifesaver for me, if it ever passes

    • PERA On The Issues says:

      Hi, Tim.
      Thanks for reading. Social Security is administered solely at the federal level, so any changes to that system would occur in D.C. For more information on the history of the program, visit this PERA On The Issues story from May 2019: https://peraontheissues.com/pera-and-social-security/.

      • Carol Savallisch says:

        So why are states involved in this? I worked in a northern state and paid into Social Security. I then moved to Texas and later Colorado. Neither of them participate in Social Security for those who are in the education field. Shame on those who bring up double dipping. No politician loses his Social Security benefit upon retirement in addition to no penalties for lobbying, etc. I am not asking for anything to which I did not contribute. When Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay were in Congress, they prevented a bill addressing this issue to get out of committee. It died. Mr. Trump has appointed Gingrich as Ambassador to the Vatican. Give me a break!

        • Linda Vaughn says:

          If they are going to exclude us from collecting the SSN we legally earned working before being Pera members or earned while working second jobs to survive on those “less than” competitive wages back in the day then the least they can do is refund the actual amount that was taken from those pay checks. How is it not theft to breach a contract AND withhold the actual dollars taken from us?

        • M. E. Henninger says:

          I agree! There’s no double dipping. I paid into social security just like everyone else who did but my social security is reduced by almost 60%. It’s insulting. And I agree with Christopher Richards below… PERA certainly could be advocating for those of us who fall under the Windfall Elimination Act (which is grossly misnamed. It should be called theft). PERA pulls a lot of weight. Much more than we do as individuals. So PERA, help us out here!! And, keep us informed please.

      • Christopher Richards says:

        But… PERA clearly has NOT been pounding on the doors of federal legislators to undo this grossly unfair program. We want to know why, and all you ever do in response is to say it’s a federal program not under PERA’s jurisdiction. That’s not even close to being good enough!

        PERA retirees would NOT be double dipping, if we pay into SS, then we should reap the same benefits as anyone else, based upon our individual contribution level of course. It’s pretty simple

      • Laura Zumwalt says:

        Those of us who are severely affected by the WEP understand that it is administered by the federal government under the Social Security division. However, I have written numerous letters to my senators asking for changes, detailing how the WEP affects the lower earners in PERA who may have been custodians, secretaries, Educational assistants and many other positions. So, our PERA is based on lower HAS tables than those of teachers, police officers, judges and other professionals. It would help immensely if the PERA board took a stand and voiced their opinions about how the WEP hurts the retirement pension of lower earners and ask for changes to be made on behalf of those earners. If the WEP allowed a graduated scale so that lower earners did not loose that 2/3rd (Of their PERA salary) from their Social Security while higher earners such as superintendents, judges etc. might still loose 2/3rds of theirs. There could be a Retirement salary cap put on social security so anyone earning above a certain amount must submit to the WEP but those below that cap still get their full social security. Each one of us who are affected by the WEP can write letters and call our congressional offices, but if the PERA board spoke up on out behalf that would go further to help enact changes.
        I urge you to do that.
        Laura Zumwalt

    • Shar Weiser says:

      Totally agree.

    • pat johnson says:

      I completely agree!

    • susan weckbaugh says:

      HR 5697 as of Nov 20 was still being “worked on” to give us back our lost SS benefits. Anybody heard of any progress. This bill has been under different numbers every year and last year or the year before actually made it to the Ways and Means Committee, where, guess what? it sat unti it died at the end of the year.

    • susan weckbaugh says:

      Guess that one is dead. Nov 20, 2014 and the rest of them afterward

    • Dee says:

      Just sent this to the two Republicans that are sponsors Please reconsider this bill and vote no. There are many, many people, especially seniors that are living on PERA and have that as their only income. You are putting them on the street with the rest of the homeless. Putting people on the street at a time when Covid-19 runs amok.Would your mother and father do well on the street? Please reconsider this bill and not suspend PERA payments. As for me, I am 2 seconds to being on the street with no job or other form of income.
      When you are up for re-election we will remember what you did..

    • Leslie Smith says:

      I have contacted my representatives several times. I just filled out this and sent it.
      https://educationvotes.nea.org/2020/01/31/tell-congress-to-repeal-unfair-social-security-penalties/

    • Barbara Brodrick says:

      Me too. I’ve been working to make up that difference. Now, with the threat COVID, I am unable to work.

  2. Linda Digby says:

    What I don’t understand is that the government pays every official who is in office for two to four years….benefits for the rest of their life….As a person who started working in high school until I was in my 30’s I was in the private sector, then I started working for the school district for 25years…retired, got my pension. Then I only got 1/3 rd of what I put into SS……can’t double dip….how insane is that..where is the money I put into SS…..going to the government to pay the congress and senate?

    • Sue Skiffington Blumberg says:

      I completely concur. I worked private sector for 26 years before city government, I am also a widow and will loose my husband’s spousal social security when I begin taking PERA. Does NOT calculate!!

      • Mary Ferbrache says:

        Agreed!!! I am also a widow and I will probably NEVER see my husband’s social security – I also worked in the private sector many years ago. Sick of the government taking care of themselves and not giving a darn about the rest of us!!!

        • S Shipley says:

          I am also a widow of 6 years and don’t get one penny of my husbands’s social security!!!!!! Why… because I was a school teacher & receive PERA. I’m 70 and still working . What a farce!

          • Elizabeth Hummel says:

            Agree! If I die, my husband can get half my PERA and all of his Social Security but if he dies I get PERA and none of his (or my) Social Security even though we both paid into the system. It’s wrong!

      • Bj Houck says:

        I agree! Is there anything that we can do to change this? If we contributed money to both social security for 20 years and PERA for 20 years it doesn’t seem right that we are penalized for being long-time hard working Americans. How did this happen and what steps can we take to change this?

        • Lori Butler says:

          I did the same. I worked 22 years and contributed to SS. I then bought some years and finished my career in Co. Yes, I get a pension, but why don’t I get credit for the 22 years that I paid in SS.
          My husband just hacked his SS and he will get more than my pension check. Working in the private sector.
          So, I paid 22 years, then bought years, and get less? Hmmm?

      • Don Nelson says:

        Ms Blumberg faces the Government Pension Offset, GPO, that applies to PERA pensioners applying to get a spousal Social Security benefit. Two thirds of your PERA payment is subtracted from what your Social Security benefit would be. This can eliminate spousal benefit. However, if most or all of your 26 years of private sector earnings are deemed significant by Social Security rules, they have a calculation that may open Ms Blumberg to receiving partial spousal benefits. Check out on MySocialSecurity website for more information.

    • Christopher Richards says:

      The term “double dip” in the case of PERA employees is political nonsense. It is NOT double dipping” if you paid into BOTH retirement vehicles. Why aren’t 401K’s or real estate retirement investments, or bonds, or …. not classified like this?

    • chuck haisley says:

      You should look up the retirement plan for members of congress. It is based on age and years of service like PERA and requires at least five years of service and the age of 62 to collect any benefits.
      Not as bad as what you said.

    • David S Prok says:

      Not enough to let this policy stand……someone with guts must take this on and change it. When we work many years to get a meager retirement, it is unfair for a politician to get a life income for serving only a few years…..illegitimate and discriminatory to say the least.

  3. Bill Clark says:

    What is socialism ?

  4. Clark Bencomo says:

    Is there any discussion of reinstating our 3% cost of living adjustment annually. The cost of living in Colorado is increasing dramatically which leaves us at quite the financial disadvantage compared with the private sector.

    • Prilla OConnell says:

      How can retirees organize to bring attention to this issue. That I was promised 3.5 yearly increase and now were down to 1.35 af the r being frozen for two years. When the change was made in the legislature, the dems promised to circle back. Polis said he would support a revamp. But nothing has been initiated. Why?

  5. Mary Ferbrache says:

    Agreed!!! I am also a widow and I will probably NEVER see my husband’s social security – I also worked in the private sector many years ago. Sick of the government taking care of themselves and not giving a darn about the rest of us!!!

  6. Judith Sauerteig says:

    I also worked enough jobs to receive SS as did my husband who has passed. I don’t understand why I am being penalized for working hard all my life!!!

  7. Mary says:

    If, as you say it’s at the federal level, why than are we penalized with, as its called, a windfall as double dipping: when PERA is state affiliated. How do the two make any sense. Does this windfall also apply to federal retirement programs. Or do they get SS benefits along side their federal retirement benefits ois it because their federal, and SS is also federal. If so, they get to double dip as the term used to define our situation.
    I am only asking. Don’t know???

    • Batson says:

      Current federal workers pay into both federal and social security programs, so yes they get both without penalty.

  8. Christy Dowling says:

    I agree with others,I am losing part of my social security income due to Wind Fall Elimination passed many years ago. Very unfair to many of us. PERA needs to lobby on our behalf to change Windfall Elimination so we can receive our full social security

  9. Herbert Clevenger says:

    My question to all the above that is concerned about their reduction in their social security benefits because of the WEP or GPO if you have written your local congressman that represents you in Washington? Do you understand the Windfall Elimination provision and the Government Pension offset and witch applies to you? If not google it and then please get busy writing your congressman and your senators that represent you in Washington DC. Writing PERA won’t deliver us anything on this matter. Yes PERA can keep us posted, but that is all. Also get on the phone and make your complaints known! Go to congress.gov and check on H.R.141 Social Security Fairness Act to see who has signed on as co-sponsors to this bill. Sign up for email updates.

  10. Barbara Spengler says:

    Take a look at the link below if you would like to get a clear picture of how bad the School system and the state of Colorado have short changed their teachers. It is more than disgraceful. PERA’s whitewash of “Share the pain” mantra because of poor investment performance after spending $100,000s of thousands of dollars on “investment managers” to manage the funds, the State and the School Districts underfunding their retirement plans for years, the craftly designed plan to save the school districts money by taking them out of Social Security payments for their teachers by making them a “government” entity of some kind, all add up to placing Colorado as the 5th worst state in the nation in funding their teacher retirements.
    Our neighbor to the west…Utah, has done an excellent job of recognizing the importance and professional level of their teachers and structured their pay and benefits accordingly. Read and weep.

    https://www.teacherpensions.org/blog/which-states-have-best-and-worst-teacher-retirement-plans

  11. Nancy Butler says:

    Agree and hope that someday, I will receive full benefit for the many years I paid into SS but because I also worked for many yes in PERA I currently forfeit benefit. If I NEVER worked and only drew based upon a spouse, there is no penalty. Does not compute!
    Sending any input to Congressmen has been wasted time/effort. I just do t understand why I am not RE roving SS benefit based upon what I’ve contributed?!

  12. Bonnie Hartman says:

    Thank you Herbert!! I took your advice and signed up for email updates to HR141. I also wrote my rep to see why this bill isn’t moving. It has support from 244 reps. If I understand it, it will repeal the GPO and the WEP. If everyone will jump on the bandwagon and reach out to your rep, maybe we can get this bill moving! The government is stealing your money all.

  13. Gina Curtis says:

    Yes, I have written congressmen. One wrote back saying he had no idea that if a PERA employee spouse dies, they do not receive their spouse’s SS. Please write and educate them. It may help.

    • Michael says:

      Educate a politician? Let me know how that goes for ya… =)

    • Gina C says:

      I had a congressman write back and tell me the same, he had no idea a teacher receives no spousal SS after their death. If enough teachers continue to write in, it can make a difference. Please do!

  14. Donnamarie Spruce says:

    Good to know other folks are crying out about this injustice! UNFAIR!!

  15. Angela says:

    I find it egregious that they literally force us to contribute (mandatory 8% “contribution” from the employee) and now they don’t want to pay it out. On both accounts. I would have preferred to invest outside a government controlled retirement plan.

  16. Tracie Smith says:

    If HB 20-1379 passes how will this impact our PERA?

    • Chuck G says:

      Dear PERA, (My thoughts from email here on HB20-1379 for others to comment )

      As I listen to the General Assembly proceedings, I pessimistic. My expectations are that this HB20-1379 will pass as a law change like a hot knife through butter – the mantra we heard 2 years ago : shared sacrifice. I heard no debate or testimony opposing this. Did the PERA Director testify ? Maybe I missed it. Only government can breach a contract but still hold the other parties to the terms of the contract!

      I told my wife (33 year retired special ed teacher) 2 years ago, also 2 months ago that SB18-200 agreed funding by Colorado is conditional (like old Indian treaties) and is not worth the toilet paper written on, virus or not – i.e. any future budget issues and the money is gone. I told her she should have earned her pension benefits in other State that is rock solid honorable and prioritizes and protects its retirees.
      PERA benefits and funding should have been put in the Colorado State Constitution long ago.

      Colorado State government is not honorable and is not to be trusted, virus or not. Neither is PERA honorable and dependable. For political expediency, this contract will be breached it seems unilaterally by the State, recreating 2 problems, PERA underfunding and a risk of the State’s credit rating. On the [screw the retirees] side of the decision, retirees will no doubt be held to the provisions of SB18-200, with more COLA cuts to come, even though the State will have breached the contract. What crap !

      The State of Colorado had entered into an agreement SB18-200 in which they legally owe the PERA Fund and PERA retirees for SERVCES ALREADY RENDERED. It should be at the same highest priority as payroll for work already performed or contractor payments for work already completed. In a bankruptcy, I believe payroll for example would be highest priority for payment at 100%. A debt or debt payment owed should not be ended without adjudication with all parties and stakeholders. Too bad – retirees are expendable and do not seem to have any power to defend themselves and no real advocate, unlike teachers who go on strike.

      I expect this same thing may happen again next year. I hope not.

      Upset? Yes, I am.
      Please educate me on where I am wrong on my assessment?
      Sincerely

  17. Chuck G says:

    Dear PERA, (My thoughts from my email here on HB20-1379 for others to comment )

    As I listen to the General Assembly proceedings, I am pessimistic. My expectations are that this HB20-1379 will pass as a law change like a hot knife through butter – the mantra we heard 2 years ago : shared sacrifice. I heard no debate or testimony opposing this. Did the PERA Director testify ? Maybe I missed it. Only government can breach a contract but still hold the other parties to the terms of the contract!

    I told my wife (33 year retired special ed teacher) 2 years ago, also 2 months ago that SB18-200 agreed funding by Colorado is conditional (like old Indian treaties) and is not worth the toilet paper written on, virus or not – i.e. any future budget issues and the money is gone. I told her she should have earned her pension benefits in other State that is rock solid honorable and prioritizes and protects its retirees.
    PERA benefits and funding should have been put in the Colorado State Constitution long ago.

    Colorado State government is not honorable and is not to be trusted, virus or not. Neither is PERA honorable and dependable. For political expediency, this contract will be breached it seems unilaterally by the State, recreating 2 problems, PERA underfunding and a risk of the State’s credit rating. On the [screw the retirees] side of the decision, retirees will no doubt be held to the provisions of SB18-200, with more COLA cuts to come, even though the State will have breached the contract. What crap !

    The State of Colorado had entered into an agreement SB18-200 in which they legally owe the PERA Fund and PERA retirees for SERVCES ALREADY RENDERED. It should be at the same highest priority as payroll for work already performed or contractor payments for work already completed. In a bankruptcy, I believe payroll for example would be highest priority for payment at 100%. A debt or debt payment owed would not be ended without adjudication with all parties and stakeholders. Too bad – retirees are expendable and do not seem to have any power to defend themselves and no real advocate, unlike teachers who go on strike.

    I expect this same thing may happen again next year. I hope not.

    Upset? Yes, I am.

    Please educated me on where I am wrong in my assessment?
    Sincerely

  18. Gloria J Jones says:

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