The Colorado Sun’s Brian Eason has bad news for participants in the state Public Employees Retirement Association, who have already endured several rounds of belt-tightening in recent years to increase employee costs and reduce employee payouts:
Thanks to a brutal December for stocks, Colorado’s pension lost $1.8 billion on its investments in 2018, according to the annual financial report released Friday. That’s a 3.5% drop for a portfolio that policymakers rely on to fund the retirement plans of more than 600,000 Coloradans.
As a result of the losses, last year’s landmark deal to rescue the Public Employees’ Retirement Association from the financial brink is going to cost everyone in the state millions more than initially expected.
Under a legislative guardrail installed to protect the system from economic shocks, public employees and taxpayer-funded agencies in 2020 will see their pension contributions increase. The state will have to chip in an extra $20 million in taxpayer dollars on its $225 million annual stabilization payment. Retirees will see their annual cost-of-living raises drop to 1.25% a year, down from 2% in 2018 and the 1.5% annual increase that was negotiated in last year’s reforms.
Under the terms of last year’s reform legislation, PERA can respond more quickly to losses in order to shore up the solvency of the fund in general–resulting in a higher bill to taxpayers and lower rate of growth for retirees without additional legislative action. That tends to defuse the situation politically, at least with respect to PERA’s enthusiastic and generally Republican detractors like former Treasurer Walker Stapleton.
But for the record, let’s be clear about why stocks had such a “brutal December.”
“I do believe this was the worst Dec. 24 in history,” U.S. Global Investors head trader Michael Matousek told ABC News. “There hasn’t been a worse Christmas Eve since I started in the industry 22 years ago.”
Last week was the index’s worst in 10 years — since the 2008 financial crisis. This month is currently on track to end as the worst December since the Great Depression…
[T]he recent sagging performance of the markets has been largely attributed to the White House’s policy moves, sparking a lingering trade war with China, invoking a government shutdown and chaotic news signaling political instability.
All told there are a few reasons why PERA may not loom as large politically next year as Stapleton tried to hype it during his term in office ahead of running for governor. Make no mistake, there remain serious issues with the private-sector management of PERA funds that sticking retirees with the bill for won’t fix. But the fundamental problem here is about the economy, which President Donald Trump keeps kneecapping with his endless trade wars. Blaming anyone in Colorado for the damage Trump is inflicting on the national economy just doesn’t make sense.