It’s been an unusual year, to say the least. COVID-19 altered everything. The well-being of so many across the state, country, and world was at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts. But readers of PERA On The Issues were also interested in how the global pandemic affected PERA. The top stories of 2020 were primarily about the ways in which PERA and the state legislature adapted to these new circumstances.
In 2018, the state legislature instituted an annual payment from the state budget to PERA, called a direct distribution. This $225 million payment was an important piece of SB 18-200 and goes toward paying down PERA’s unfunded liability. However, by the end of March the economy was in rough shape. It was clear that budget writers would face a shortfall amounting to billions of dollars. As a result, the legislature paused the direct distribution for 2020 — part of a long list of emergency cuts throughout the state’s budget.
Months after the legislature paused the direct distribution, Governor Polis released his budget proposal for 2021. In it, he indicated one of his priorities was to restore the direct distributions in full. The governor does not write the budget — that responsibility falls to the state legislature’s Joint Budget Committee. But his budget proposal helps set the tone as this process gets underway. Typically, the state legislature passes a budget in late March or early April before sending it to the governor for a signature.
The direct distribution was not the only PERA-related measure the legislature passed in 2020. Other bills included:
- A temporary change to the contributions judges make to PERA
- Reclassifying state firefighters as safety officers
- An expansion of working-after-retirement exemptions for certain employees hired by a board of cooperative services (BOCES).
Those who follow the stock market can sum up 2020 with one word: volatility. The end of March saw a sharp sell-off as stock prices plunged. The uptick that followed was nearly as swift as the initial drop. In the midst of this uncertainty, PERA’s Chief Investment Officer, Amy C. McGarrity, penned a letter addressing PERA’s strategy.
After nearly eight years in publication, PERA On The Issues received a makeover. The new site design contains updates to improve the reader experience. For example, stories now look better on mobile devices, which is important as nearly half all people read PERA On The Issues on their phones. Although the site looks a bit different, the types of stories this site covers remains the same.
As 2020 comes to a close, we’re thankful to all our readers for continuing to rely on PERA On The Issues. In an environment awash with options, this website’s readership continues to grow. We’ll continue following and unpacking the issues that matter to PERA’s many stakeholders like we’ve done for years. We’ll see you in 2021.