A summary of proposed legislation affecting Colorado PERA. Check back often for new bills and updated status reports. Last updated: May 21, 2018.
(Note: the summary below reflects the bill as it was passed out of the House on May 2, 2018, and does not reflect the changes made to the bill by the conference committee and approved by the House and Senate on May 9, 2018. An updated summary and a comparison between the final version and previous versions, along with the Board’s proposal, will be available soon.)
Modifications To PERA To Eliminate Unfunded Liability
Summary (applies to the reengrossed version of this bill as introduced in the second house): The public employees’ retirement association (PERA) provides retirement and other benefits to employees of the school districts, state, local governments, and other public entities across the state. The bill makes changes to the hybrid defined benefit plan administered by PERA with the goal of eliminating, with a high probability, the unfunded actuarial accrued liability of each of PERA’s divisions and thereby reach a 100% funded ratio for each division within the next 30 years. The bill modifies benefits, ensures alignment of contributions and benefits, and makes other modifications as follows:
Highest Average Salary (HAS): Currently, for a PERA member who is not in the judicial division of PERA, the member’s HAS is based on an average of the highest annual salaries associated with 3 periods of 12 consecutive months of service with a base year. For a PERA member who is in the judicial division of PERA, the member’s HAS is based on an average of the highest annual salaries associated with 12 consecutive months of service. For all new PERA members hired on or after January 1, 2020, who are not in the judicial division, and for all existing PERA members who do not have 5 years of service credit as of January 1, 2020, who are not in the judicial division, the bill modifies the HAS calculation to be based on an average of the highest annual salaries associated with 5 periods of 12 consecutive months of service with a base year. For all new PERA members hired on or after January 1, 2020, who are in the judicial division, and for all existing PERA members in the judicial division who do not have 5 years of service credit as of January 1, 2020, the bill modifies the HAS calculation to be based on an average of the highest annual salaries associated with 3 periods of 12 consecutive months of service with a base year.
Definition of salary: The bill modifies the definition of salary for new hires as of July 1, 2019, by including amounts deducted from pay pursuant to a cafeteria plan or a qualified transportation plan in the definition of salary. In addition, the bill includes unused sick leave converted to cash payments in the definition of salary for all members.
Contribution increases: The bill increases the employee contribution rate by 2.0%, phased-in over three years. Beginning July 1, 2019, the bill will increase employee contributions by 0.75%, followed by another 0.75% increase on July 1, 2020, and finally a 0.50% increase on July 1, 2021. The bill also increases the employer contribution rate by 0.25% beginning on July 1, 2019, except for the Local Government employers.
Termination of affiliation: Employers assigned to the PERA local government division may terminate affiliation with PERA upon application to the PERA board. The bill clarifies that any employer that ceases operations or ceases to participate in PERA for any reason is deemed to have terminated its affiliation with PERA and is required to fully fund its share of the unfunded liability. The bill further clarifies that the PERA board will determine the amount of such payments and that such determinations are appealable through PERA’s administrative review process. Additionally, employees with less than five years of service credit will now be able to keep an account at PERA, rather than having their accounts automatically moved to a replacement plan.
Direct distribution: The bill modifies current statute to allow for a direct distribution from the state treasury to PERA of $225 million annually.
Expands state trooper definition to include certain other public safety officers: This bill adds certain public safety officers (such as sheriffs, detention officers, and corrections officers) who become members of PERA on or after January 1, 2020 to the definition of “state trooper,” applying the higher state trooper contribution rate, lower age and service credit retirement eligibility, and immediate disability eligibility for on-the-job injuries to these other public safety officers.
Automatic contribution and annual increase amount changes: The bill specifies the circumstances under which the member and employer contribution rates, the direct distribution and the annual increase percentage for retirement benefits can be adjusted so the fund remains within the target of paying off the unfunded liability within 30 years. The bill specifies that the yearly adjustments can be up to one-quarter of one percent on the annual increase percentage, one-half of one percent on the employee and employer contribution percentages and the direct distribution may increase by $25 million or decrease by $20 million. The bill places limits on how much the annual increase,contribution rates and the direct distribution can be adjusted. Automatic adjustments could begin as early as July 1, 2020.
Service retirement eligibility for new members: For non-state trooper members who begin employment on or after January 1, 2020, the bill increases the age and service requirements for full-service retirement benefits to age 64 with a minimum of 30 years of service, age 65 with a minimum of 5 years of service, and any age with a minimum of 35 years of service. For non-state trooper members who begin employment on or after January 1, 2020, the bill increases the age and service requirements for reduced service retirement to age 55 with a minimum of 25 years of service and age 60 with a minimum of 5 years. For new state trooper members who begin employment on or after January 1, 2020, the bill increases the age and service requirements for full-service retirement benefits to age 55 with 25 years of service, age 65 with 5 years of service, or any age with 35 years of service. For new state trooper members who begin employment on or after January 1, 2020, the bill increases the age and service requirements for reduced service retirement to age 50 with 20 years of service.
Cost of living adjustment (COLA) for all retirees, members, and inactive members: Currently, the annual COLA for benefit recipients who began membership prior to January 1, 2007, is 2%. For the years 2018 and 2019, the bill reduces the COLA to 0%. For each year thereafter, the bill changes the COLA to 1.50%, unless it is adjusted pursuant to the automatic adjustment provisions explained above. In addition, the bill requires benefit recipients to wait 36 months or three years (depending on when they became members) after benefits commence before receiving their first COLA if they had not received a COLA on or before May 1, 2018.
Defined Contribution (DC) choice expansion: New members in the Local Government Division and certain classified employees of state colleges and universities in the State Division on or after January 1, 2019 will have a choice between joining the PERA Hybrid Defined Benefit plan or the PERAChoice DC plan.
Defined Contribution (DC) supplement: Employers whose employees choose to participate in the DC plan will pay the DC supplement in order to offset any increases in PERA liabilities created by members who would otherwise have participated in the Hybrid Defined Benefit plan.
Public pension legislative oversight committee: Expands the existing Police Officers’ and Firefighters’ Pension Reform Commission to include oversight of PERA and creates a subcommittee exclusively focused on PERA. The 14-member subcommittee will include four legislators appointed from the Commission and 10 appointed external experts from relevant industries.
Investment program oversight: PERA may share private equity and real estate investment details in an executive session of the legislative members of the Subcommittee unless confidentiality provisions of contracts prohibits such disclosure.
Status: Awaiting action from the Governor. (Passed conference committee and re-passed by the House and Senate on May 9, 2018.)
Modifications To PERA Board Of Trustees
Summary: Reconfigure the PERA Board of Trustees and allow Trustees access to member and retiree information.
This bill would change the existing 16-member Board of Trustees as follows:
- Eliminate four member-elected positions;
- Eliminate one elected Trustee from the State Division (lowering from three to two Trustees in this Division, one of whom is from Higher Ed);
- Eliminate three elected Trustees from the School Division (lowering from four to one Trustee in this Division);
- Require the member-elected positions to be at least 20 years from retirement eligibility (the DPS seat would not be modified to have this requirement);
- Replace the eliminated positions with four Trustees appointed by the Governor, with Senate confirmation, bringing the total of Governor-appointed Trustees to seven. These appointees may not be PERA members or retirees. Of the seven appointees, no more than four shall be from the same political party.
- Eventually, the seven appointed Trustees must be comprised of professionals with ten years of experience in the following fields:
- One professional in investment fund management,
- One professional in accounting and a CPA,
- One professional in securities law and a licensed attorney in Colorado,
- One professional in tax law and a licensed attorney in Colorado,
- One professional in pension management,
- One professional in actuarial analysis and a certified actuary, and
- One professional who is a certified financial planner accredited by a nationally recognized accreditation agency.
In addition to composition changes, the bill would also authorize a Trustee to review all records or information within the custody and control of PERA.
The bill defines information requests to include: “salary and benefit information that is contained in records of members, former members, inactive members, DPS members, DPS retirees, benefit recipients, and their dependents; except that, in fulfilling a request for records or information by a trustee pursuant to this section, the executive director of the association and the board shall not provide any other information that is designated as confidential pursuant to Section 24-51-213.”
Status: Postponed indefinitely (House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs 2/14/18)
PERA Board Position: Opposed.