Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Legislation & Governance

Preparing for the 2023 Colorado Legislative Session

A view of the golden dome atop the Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver
Photo credit: 4nadia/Getty Images

On Jan. 9, state lawmakers will convene at the Capitol in Denver for the 74th Colorado General Assembly. Over the course of the 120-day legislative session, lawmakers will introduce hundreds of bills that could ultimately change state law.

This year’s General Assembly will include dozens of new legislators. PERA’s Public & Government Affairs Manager Michael Steppat will be helping those legislators get up to speed on all things PERA as the new session begins. We sat down with Steppat to discuss the upcoming session.

For those who aren’t familiar, can you explain your role at PERA and at the State Capitol?
Two men shaking hands inside the Colorado State Capitol building
PERA Public and Government Affairs Manager Michael Steppat (right) at the State Capitol.

I represent PERA at the Capitol. I monitor and report on legislative activity, build and maintain relationships with legislators and other stakeholders, and oversee lobbying efforts. I also serve as the liaison for legislative committee staff.

Tell us about some of the changes at the Capitol this year and the outreach you’ve been doing.

There are more than 30 new legislators at the statehouse this year, which is a large number even in a state like Colorado that has term limits. There have also been changes of leadership on some of the committees that provide PERA oversight. It will be important to make sure lawmakers understand how PERA works and the importance of recent legislation related to PERA.

In the days leading up to the start of the new session, I’ve been reaching out to all the newly elected legislators to introduce myself and let them know I’ll be a point of contact to help them with any questions and provide information as the session unfolds.

Why does PERA monitor and engage in the legislative process?

While the PERA Board of Trustees is responsible for administering benefits and overseeing PERA’s investments, the Colorado General Assembly is responsible for many other aspects of PERA, such as contribution rates, benefit levels, and the amount of the annual benefit increases that retirees receive.

PERA staff provide regular updates to the legislature so lawmakers can make informed decisions on issues that affect our members.

The legislative session is a busy time, but you’re active at the Capitol year-round. What kind of activities have taken place since the last legislative session?

There’s a lot of important work that happens after a session ends and before the next one begins. PERA leaders and staff routinely meet with and report to various legislative bodies that oversee PERA’s operations and financial health. Those groups include the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee and Joint Finance Committee, as well as the Pension Review Commission and the Pension Review Subcommittee.

In between sessions, there are also meetings held with various lawmakers and PERA stakeholders with an interest in PERA and the issues that can affect our members and retirees. PERA, its benefits, and legislative changes over the years can be a lot to learn, but it’s our goal to help educate stakeholders without overwhelming them.

What’s your advice for people who want to advocate for a particular bill or outcome at the legislature?

The most important thing people can do is contact their legislators about issues that are important to them. In addition, the General Assembly website has lots of great information. You can listen to committee meetings, view calendars, review the status of a bill, and sign up to testify at committee meetings.

And of course the PERA On The Issues biweekly newsletter will be up-to-date on any legislation that affects PERA. We also encourage people to sign up for the PERA Ambassadors newsletter here.


  1. Paul says:

    Please pass along to Mr. Steppat that members are contacting their legislators to request a Bill to establish a COLA for PERA. IF we are able to get a Bill introduced, we would appreciate it if he/PERA would work to encourage lawmakers to pass it. It is obvious to anyone paying attention that the “Annual Increase” provision is grossly inadequate to sustain members’ purchasing power over time. All you have to do is look at the COLA’s for social security this year and last year in contrast with the AI. The social security formula for cost of living is a reasonable indicator of how dramatically costs have risen. Obviously SS is a different animal from PERA but increases in costs of living are real for pensioners just as they are for SS recipients. While the PERA Annual Increases once mitigated the cost of living problem, that no longer holds true as a result of legislative changes during the last decade. I understand PERA’s first concern will be the impact of the long term viability of the fund if it needed to pay for the increases year in and year out. I think that prime directive is too often used as an explanation for doing nothing. Instead, PERA’s emphasis should be to support a COLA and lobby on our behalf for the State to pick up the costs of funding the COLA. That’s a win win PERA ought to be able to get behind.

    • Joanie Butero-Gay says:

      Thank you Paul!!

      When, I first started working for a PERA employer, everyone said PERA is better than Social Security. But is it really? With our lousy 1% increase each year, we are not even getting as much money as the people on Social Security are getting each year. We need to get a better COLA every year to keep up with inflation!!! How are we supposed to survive on our measly annual increase!! And then with the Windfall we can’t even collect our Social Security benefits that really is our money. Is this even legal!!!

      • Paul says:

        Well, PERA is better than SS because you can earn a substantially higher defined benefit than the maximum benefit payable to Social Security recipients. But you are right that it is a travesty that people who payed into SS are not permitted to draw their full social security benefit simply because they receive PERA. It is also a travesty that prior legislatures gutted the Annual Increase (AI) provision when they knew we were without a provision for any COLA in future years. Whether we have a new legislature that is willing to fix that remains to be seen.

    • Bill L. says:

      Well said Paul. While I don’t ever expect to get inflation fully covered, the current cap of 1.5% is not only highly damaging to the long term value of our pensions, it was also not the cap for the vast majority of years that I worked for the state. It feels as if the pension benefit that we earned was changed after we had earned our pensions, which is not at all fair.

    • Marty S. says:

      Right on everything you said, Paul! This increase is not what any of us were promised–and this ludicrous idea of bringing PERA to fully funded status however many years from now…I won’t even be here then, so what about MY retirement (and all of yours–fellow retirees) and the 30-40 years worked to earn it???!!! One percent is cruel and inhumane especially when you perhaps reach an age you just aren’t able to work anymore.
      And the change to United No-Healthcare??? Seriously?!?! Despite checking all my providers during Open Enrollment back in 2021 when PERA made that asinine change and United assuring me all were covered (and yes, they DO all take Medicare and were paid under the Anthem MAPD plan!), United has their “own” criteria and learned too late in 2022 one critical provider was NOT covered despite being covered by all other major carriers. Case is now with an attorney, and I had to get out of PERA’s plan and into one with benefits not as good just to get a provider paid that I couldn’t change. Hearing from other PERA retirees (neighbors) who are going through horror stories of their own with United. PERA isn’t doing a thing for retirees anymore. We’re on our own. So YES, let’s contact legislators to get a bill for a higher COLA for PERA-we earned it! I could care less if PERA isn’t fully funded in 25-30 years; I won’t be here anyway, nor do I have kids working for the state (they’d be crazy to work for any CO PERA entity given that they won’t get anything at their retirement). There is NO reason current retirees should bear the brunt of funding future retirees with money we earned for decades of work–especially when I’m not getting any SS benefits due to the WEP, despite having 40 quarters outside of PERA.

  2. Jeff says:

    Well said Paul!

    Thank you,


  3. Mike says:

    Make that (2) Paul.

    And if one thinks our 1% raise doesn’t come even close to keeping up with the cost of living, think of a negative year in the economy, which will kick in a 3-year ‘No raise’ clause from PERA.

  4. Barbara says:


  5. Pam says:

    When I retired it was an annual 3% increase. I thought that was set in cement, but it was taken away. Now if the economy does not do well, we lose any increase for 3 years. In addition, many of us are denied our full and in most cases EARNED social security and you do nothing to advocate for us with legislators to get this rectified. STOP THE STEAL for PERA retirees.

  6. Linda says:

    I agree with all comments. Also if we were to get the SS that we have earned it would definitely help offset what PERA employees aren’t getting in raises. Perhaps the government should put money in it’s citizens pockets and invest in us as well!

  7. Susan DeMeules says:

    I agree with everything that has been said. One thing that I would like to add is that new retirees are not eligible for any increase for the first 3 years. In my case, I retired on August 1 of 2021, so I won’t be eligible for an increase until July 1 of 2025, 3 years and 11 months. I think that’s enough “pain” for the retiree sector. When many of these changes were put into place, it was because “everyone had to share in the pain,” including retirees. It seems that it is stacked against us.

    One more thing, the Windfall Elimination Act is a federal act and must be changed at the federal level, so contact your Congressional representative and your US Senators. The state legislature can’t do much about that.

  8. Brad Roeder says:

    Keep up the good work that you are doing for us retirees.

  9. Cee says:

    Thank you Paul. I have been retired for quite a few years…. fortunate good health… earlier we had cost of living that was good. in recent years I receive nothing on the Social Security in increases as I have PERA, therefore the income in current markets is decreasing significantly…

  10. Jim Lipscomb says:

    SB 18-200 was passed based on a slogan of “shared sacrifice” being necessary to address PERA’s funding shortfall (caused largely by employers’ failure to make actuarily required contributions for almost 20 years). Most people probably believed that “shared sacrifice” meant EQUALLY shared sacrifice. The facts show that this is not the case.
    Retirees’ sacrifice was a decrease in pension purchasing power that grows dramatically over time starting when the bill became effective. It is the cumulative increase in the cost of living minus a tiny cumulative COLA. As of 7/1/2023 retirees’ loss of purchasing power will be 16.9%. And it will keep rising every year unless something is done to stop the madness. Employers’ revenue increases every year as taxes rise in synch with inflation. Therefore, their loss of purchasing power is only the additional amount that SB 200 requires them to make to PERA. As of 7/1/2023 employers’ will have lost less than 1% in purchasing power. Their contribution to PERA will be 1.25% of their permanent employees’ salaries more than it was before the bill took effect. (Note that this percentage applies only to salaries, so it is a much lower percent of their actual total budgets.) Active employees receive raises most years that are designed to keep their salaries competitive. Over time these raises tend to be equal to increases in inflation, or a little more. Therefore, similarly to the case of employers, their sacrifice in terms of lost purchasing power is simply their increased contributions to PERA. Under SB 200, employees’ loss of purchasing power will be 3% as of 7/1/2023.

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