In 2010, Colorado public sector unions supported the Colorado Legislature's breach of the contracts of Colorado PERA retirees (in SB10-001.) This bill took earned, accrued, fully-vested, contracted PERA COLA benefits from retirees, i.e., the PERA retiree's "inflation protection" provided for in their PERA contracts. A lawsuit over this taking, Justus v. State, is now pending before the Colorado Supreme Court.
Colorado PERA Executive Director Meredith Williams recorded the names of Colorado public sector unions supporting the taking of the PERA COLA benefit here:
“In Colorado, Senate Bill 1 passed with the support of the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security, which brought together Friends of PERA . . . the Colorado Education Association, the Colorado School and Public Employees Retirement Association, AFSCME Colorado, the American Federation of Teachers Colorado, the Association of Colorado State Patrol Professionals, the Colorado Association of School Executives, and Colorado WINS.”
In 2010, the Colorado General Assembly colluded with those who ACTUALLY OWE the Colorado PERA pension debt, Colorado PERA-affiliated employers (the State of Colorado and Colorado local governments) and those seeking to lower future PERA pension contributions for their "dues-paying," (non-retired) members (Colorado public sector unions.) This collusion culminated in the bill, SB10-001, breaking the pension contracts of Colorado PERA retirees.
By taking the contracted PERA COLA benefit, the Colorado Legislature is attempting to slash the PERA pension debt of Colorado state and local governments in order to further lower taxes in the state with the lowest per capita state tax burden in the nation. The Colorado Legislature is attempting to use a legal contrivance to justify the taking of one-third to one-half of the accrued PERA pension benefit from Colorado PERA retirees. The Colorado Legislature is attempting to "inflate away" its PERA pension debt, breaking the statutory requirement to pay the PERA COLA, while the Colorado PERA Board of Trustees' own long-term actuarial inflation assumption is 3.75 percent.
In 2010, financially self-interested parties told Colorado PERA retirees that they were greedy to expect the State of Colorado and Colorado local governments to honor their Colorado PERA pension contracts.
In 2010, the Colorado General Assembly spat in the faces of those who have given their lives in public service . . . Colorado PERA retirees.
Rather than supporting the breach of pension contracts like Colorado's public sector unions, today, Montana's public sector unions announced that they will sue the State of Montana over the Montana Legislature's recent taking of retiree pension COLA benefits. (In Montana, the COLA is known as the "GABA," "guaranteed annual benefit increase."):
"We keep getting calls and emails asking if MEA-MFT is in fact going to litigate legislated amendments seriously truncating and delaying Guaranteed Annual Benefit Adjustments or GABAs in PERS and TRS.
The answer is YES!
MEA-MFT is right now working with other advocate organizations representing current and future retirees on a common, comprehensive legal challenge to the legislature's GABA attacks. We have retained counsel. We are developing compelling legal arguments. We are vetting possible plaintiffs. We will file when it is the right time to file. And we expect to win.
MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver"
"Bullock signs pension fixes, school funding bill."
"The plan is expected to face legal challenge from unhappy retirees who will argue in court that the changes unconstitutionally break the contractual obligations the state made to employees."
"The state's largest employee union, MEA-MFT, said it expects to support the litigation — even though it also still supports the overall fixes."
Eric Feaver, President, MEA-MFT:
"There are constitutional questions, questions of contract rights that are raised by so doing (changing guaranteed annual benefit adjustments.)"
MONTANA GOVERNOR: THE COLA TAKING IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
"In response, Bullock’s budget director Dan Villa said the governor’s office opposed the amendment that sought to change the GABA (COLA) and questioned its constitutionality."
"'We understand that both current employees and retirees are considering legal challenges to address the amendments, and we support that action,' Villa said. 'It’s important to keep in mind that this likely unconstitutional amendment doesn’t change one important fact: by implementing the remainder of Gov. Bullock’s plan, Montana is the first state in the nation to fix our pension system without raising taxes.'"
"The Legislature’s own attorneys have repeatedly advised it that GABA is a constitutionally-protected contract with public employees and should not be broken. If the Legislature chooses to advance legislation to renege on this important commitment it has to raise concerns with all citizens as to what other contracts the state may choose to ignore. If a 'deal’s a deal' only when the Legislature chooses to honor it, then what about Montana’s other contract commitments?"
"The Legislature should not violate the contract it statutorily committed to with Montana’s public employees. Rather, it should honor the commitments made to current and future government retirees including fully funding GABA."
"Unlike other states that have variable Cost of Living Adjustments in their pension plans, Montana enacted a guaranteed statutory annual percentage adjustment for its public employees."
(My comment: Like Montana, Colorado has an "automatic" public pension COLA benefit, that is a contractual obligation of the Colorado PERA pension system. For every day of labor that Colorado PERA retirees provided, with every monthly PERA contribution that Colorado PERA retirees made, they paid for their contracted PERA COLA. Having benefited from this labor, Colorado PERA-affiliated employers now want to retroactively take this earned "deferred compensation" from PERA retirees.
In Colorado, the Legislature did not bother to ask its legal staff for a legal opinion addressing the taking of the Colorado PERA COLA benefit. Although encouraged to do so, prior to the taking, the Colorado Legislature did not bother to ask the Colorado Supreme Court for an opinion on the constitutionality of their PERA pension proposal (through an interrogatory.) The Colorado Legislature did not appoint an interim study committee to examine legal, PROSPECTIVE, PERA pension reform options, instead abdicating its policy-making authority in this area to lobbyists representing self-interested Colorado PERA employers trying to escape their debts.)
Colorado PERA active and retired members. Support public pension contractual rights in the USA. Contribute at saveperacola.com, and "Friend" Save Pera Cola on Facebook!