Mostly talk, little action so far regarding PERA changes

Legislature considering bills; 2.5 percent contribution responsibility returning to employer

Mostly talk, little action so far regarding PERA changes
Nine bills pertaining to the Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) were introduced in the 2012  legislative session, but so far, all but three have been killed in committee.

The remaining bills are scheduled for discussion today by the House Finance Committee, but they face stiff opposition from a variety of sources including PERA and many of its members and retirees. The bills deal with how retirement benefits are calculated, the membership of the PERA board, and an expansion of PERA’s defined contribution plan.

What is certain, however, is that the 2.5 percent PERA contribution shift for University of Colorado employees will end this July. Eric Brown, spokesman for Gov. John Hickenlooper, said another year of the contribution shift was not included in the proposed budget the governor’s office sent to the General Assembly.

More than 11,000 CU employees who are PERA members saw a 2.5 percent reduction in take-home pay because of separate state laws passed for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 fiscal years that shifted a portion of retirement fund contributions from the employer to the employee. The shift was an effort to balance the state budget. The law decreased the employer contribution rate in the state and judicial divisions of PERA by 2.5 percent and increased the member contribution rate by 2.5 percent.

Beginning in July 2012, however, the contribution rates will return to 10.15 percent for the university and 8 percent for employees.

Following is a roundup of 2012 PERA legislative bills and their status:

House Finance Committee:

HB 12-1142: The bill would allow PERA members to enroll in the defined contribution plan instead of the defined benefit plan. Currently only new state and some new university employees may choose between the plans. Scheduled for discussion today.

HB 12-1179: Currently three members of PERA’s Board of Trustees are appointed by the governor. The legislation would allow the governor to appoint an additional four members. Similar bills proposing membership change have been defeated by the Legislature in the past. Scheduled for discussion today.

HB12-1150: The bill would change the way retirement benefits are calculated. Currently, benefits are calculated using the highest average salary from three years, but the bill would increase the calculation to include seven years for those eligible to retire after Jan. 1, 2013.  Scheduled for discussion today.

Legislation that has been killed in committee:

HB12-1250:  The bill would have changed employee contributions and eliminated the health care program subsidy for those with Medicare coverage. Killed by sponsor in House Finance Committee.

SB 12-16: The bill would have allowed local government employers to shift up to 2.5 percent of contributions to employees. Killed by Senate Finance Committee.

SB 12-82: The bill would have changed the retirement age eligibility for those hired after Jan. 1, 2013, to the same age as those receiving Social Security benefits. Killed by Senate Finance Committee.

SB 12-19: The bill would have required PERA’s Board of Trustees to reduce benefits when the unfunded liability amortization of the plan exceeded 30 years for each division. Killed by Senate Finance Committee.

SB 12-84: The bill would have made public certain information about PERA’s elected officials and cabinet members. Killed by Senate Finance Committee.

SB 12-136: The bill would have changed the frequency and information contained in the state personnel compensation report. Killed by Senate Finance Committee.

For information about this and other legislation, contact CU's Office of Government Relations.