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March 27, 2012 09:04 PM UTC


  • by: PolDancer

If you’re like me, and you simply cannot get your fill of the public pension theft debate raging in the hearts of Americans, then perhaps you’ll enjoy this retrospective of noteworthy quotations from the 2010 Colorado pension theft debate.

As is often reported in the press, we Coloradans excel in nearly all areas of human endeavor . . . and pension theft is no exception.  Our 2010 pension theft bill (SB 10-001) was bold, brazen, ruthless, depraved  . . . exemplifying that western “can do” spirit.

I’ll kick off the retrospective with one of my personal favorite pension theft quotations:

Joel Judd, Chairman, House Finance Committee:

During the hearing on Senate Bill 10-001 Judd stated (near the end of the hearing) that SB 10-001 (the “COLA theft bill”) must be supported “because that’s where the money is.”

Senators Josh Penry and Greg Brophy:  “Fully 90 percent of the PERA fix comes from benefit cuts to current and future retirees.”

Greg Smith, Colorado PERA General Counsel:  “The attorney general’s opinion seems clear that fully vested employees – those retired or with enough years of service to retire – cannot see any benefits reduced, including cost-of-living adjustments.”  (Link:…

Greg Smith, PERA before the Joint Budget Committee on 12-17-09:  “The statutes are in fact binding, and they are constitutionally protected from reduction.”

Greg Smith, PERA General Counsel:  Reilly Pozner has “really talented people. I certainly couldn’t get a job there.”  (Link:…

Meredith Williams, Colorado PERA Executive Director:  “The AG’s opinion states that when a PERA member retires and begins receiving pension benefits such member’s pension rights have fully vested and such pension benefits may not be reduced.”

Representative DelGrosso (in February):  “I voted against SB 1, not because I didn’t think we needed to fix PERA, I agreed with that part of it, but I voted against Senate Bill 1 because it did adjust some of the COLAs, and it did adjust that for folks that were already retired and people that were about ready to retire,” said DelGrosso. “And to me, I felt like that was violating the contract that those people got into.”

From the 2010 debate on SB 10-001:

Rep. Lambert: “I have heard from my constituents, as many of you have, that this proposal will breach retiree’s contracts.”

Rep. Swalm: “We’re breaking new territory in this state by trying to reduce the COLA. We’re probably going to get a lawsuit out of that. If we cut the 3.5 percent COLA there will be a lawsuit.”

Rep. Gerou: in committee, said that it is a disservice to the state to rush a bill through when her committee knew that it will go to litigation, and said what we are doing to the retirees is wrong.

Rep. DelGrosso: said that it is “tough” for him to tell people that he is going to break their contract.

Senator Harvey: “We have made a commitment. We have a contract with current retirees. That is already in place. Reforms should be made for new hires. We do not have that commitment to new hires.”

Senator Spence: “The bill places an unfair burden on retirees.”

Senator Scheffel: “We are breaching our promises to existing retirees.”

Senator Lundberg: “This bill is a deal that was cut before this body met.”

Rep. Jack Pommer, JBC Chairman to JBC on 12-17-09:  “Are we not just saying we’re going to pick 30 years (as a PERA investment time horizon) because if we’re not balanced within 30 years that creates actuarial necessity which then let’s us change retiree benefits?”

Colorado PERA:  “In any event, members and retirees with fully vested rights and entitlements provided by the PERA statutes will not suffer any impairment of those rights and the Board of Trustees will continue to fight to protect the PERA membership.”

Colorado PERA:  Retirees “will receive an automatic increase of 3.5 percent in their monthly retirement benefit to help keep up with the cost of living.”

Colorado PERA:  “If you began PERA membership on or before June 30, 2005, you will receive an annual increase of 3.5 percent.”

Colorado PERA Update – (Spring 2006 – page 4):  “See that PERA’s (actuarial) funded status was lower (61.5 percent) 30 years ago than what it is now. You may recall that there was no perceived “crisis” in PERA’s funded status in 1975.”

Colorado PERA News Archive for 2004 (9-16-2004):  “PERA’S funded level was below 60 percent in 1970, and there was not a perceived crisis in PERA’s financial health.”

Mike Coffman’s “Commission to Strengthen PERA”:  “For those Coloradans already collecting benefits from PERA, their retirement funds must be protected.  The Commission may not make any recommendations that materially affect current retirees.”

Colorado Supreme Court, in Denver Police Pension and Relief Board, 1961:  When conditions are satisfied for retirement . . . . “at that time retirement pay becomes a vested right of which the person entitled thereto cannot be deprived; it has ripened into a full contractual obligation.” “Whether it be in the field of sports or in the halls of the legislature it is not consonant with American traditions of fairness and justice to change the ground rules in the middle of the game.”

Colorado Supreme Court, in Colorado Springs Firefighters v. Colorado Springs, 1989:  “Rights which accrue under a pension plan are contractual obligations . . . entitlement to annual pension payment increases is also statutorily determined. These statutory provisions have established a defined benefit contributory pension system in which most public employees are required to participate . . . . . By making these contributions, employees obtain a limited vesting of pension rights, which ripen into vested pension rights upon attainment of the respective eligibility requirements.”

PERA Hires the Lobbying Troop (how many? 12 to 20?):

State Bill Colorado article, regarding the initial recruitment of the PERA lobbying troop:  “PERA is obviously gearing up for some heavy-duty lobbying, one observer noted. The agency has hired two lobbyists from the firm Colorado Communiqué, Collon Kennedy and Steve Adams, former president of the Colorado AFL-CIO. The pension system also has hired Mary Alice Mandarich, a well-connected Democratic lobbyist who formerly was chief of staff for Senate Democrats and who worked on campaigns for former Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, former Gov. Roy Romer and gubernatorial candidate Gail Schoettler.”

Is it normal for public pension administrators to hire a lobbying troop?

Jeanne Chenault, spokeswoman for the Virginia retirement system:  “We do not take positions on bills, we provide information on bills.”

Denver Post Editorial Board in the piece “First, let court rule on PERA”:  “Before legislators take on reforms, they should first ask the state Supreme Court to determine how much leeway they have.”

John Bury, Actuary:  “Giving a government the ability to renege on a contract at their convenience means the end of any pretense to democracy.”

Algernon Moncrief (pension rights blogger):  “Senate Bill 1 is a contrivance designed to permit defined benefit plan sponsors to escape their debts.”

Visit, support the pension theft lawsuit, Friend and Like saveperacola on Facebook!



    1. hey, I disagree with your characterization of the diary as a “random spewing.”  The “diary” is simply a collection of statements highlighting the fact that SB 10-001 was an unconstitutional taking of fully-vested pension benefits in Colorado.  The piece showcases statements from Colorado legislators who voted on the bill, Colorado PERA in written materials and PERA officials on tape testifying at legislative hearings, decisions from the Colorado Supreme Court, a warning to proceed cautiously from the Denver Post, and State Bill addressing PERA’s hiring of lobbyists to force the bill through the legislative process.  (The ultimate size of the pension theft lobbying troop, including PERA and union lobbyists is unknown.)  Adding key portions from the Attorney General’s opinion on legal pension reform options and statements from prominent Democrats who opposed the theft (such as Sal pace) would make the piece more complete.

      In the absence of the PERA and union lobbying steamroller I doubt it would have been possible to force this prima facie unconstitutional bill through the legislative process.


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