Markey Slams Stapleton’s PERA Obsession on West Slope Tour

Betsy Markey.

Betsy Markey.

While all eyes in Denver have been on the big Frackapalooza compromise reached this week, former Rep. Betsy Markey, now the Democratic candidate for state treasurer, has been touring the Western Slope–and previewing her message against GOP incumbent Walker Stapleton with the local press. As the Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby reported yesterday, and the Durango Herald's Chuck Slothower similarly reports today:

Markey said the only issue Stapleton focuses on is the state’s Public Employees’ Retirement Association, and then only to criticize it, even though it’s working just fine.

“This is a big, dynamic state,” Markey told the editorial board of The Daily Sentinel. “We turn big ideas into reality, and the treasurer’s office should be no different. We can’t just focus on beating down teachers and state workers and their pension program.”

Since taking the job in 2010, Stapleton has been highly critical of the board that oversees PERA, saying its expectation of high returns is unrealistic even though it’s realized 15 percent and 12 percent returns on those investment the past two years, respectively. State treasurers serve on that board as part of their jobs.

Markey, who represented the Eastern Plains in Congress for one term in 2008-09, said problems with PERA’s long-term sustainability were largely addressed by the Legislature years ago, which helped turn the state’s largest public pension system into one of the nation’s best.

Walker Stapleton.

Walker Stapleton.

Markey is referring to 2010's Senate Bill 1, which significantly increased employee contributions to the Public Employees' Retirement Association, as well as reducing the rate of annual increase for benefits. Representing a major concession by employees in the interest of preserving PERA's solvency, Senate Bill 1 was considered by all parties at the time to be a long-term fix for the nation's 21st largest public pension system.

But it's never been enough for Treasurer Stapleton, who took office the January after Senate Bill 1 was signed into law. Stapleton has continuously harped on the need for the fund to base its projections on a lower rate of return in order to "keep taxpayers off the hook" for PERA pensions. He has continued to demand this even as the fund has blown past its projected rates of return in the last couple of years as the economy has recovered. While a 15% rate of return is not something Colorado's public employee retirees can count on, PERA managers feel comfortable with the rate of return they project for the long term. Last November, PERA lowered its expected rate of return by .5%, but that hasn't stopped Stapleton from continuing to make PERA a campaign issue.

Our shorter answer to this technical debate over PERA's solvency is that we don't have much confidence in Walker Stapleton's opinion on fiscal matters, you know, at all. Try as we might, we just can't get past the fact that this is the same guy who warned of a coming "hyperinflationary environment" in 2010 based on all the supposed fiscal evils being committed by the Obama administration in Washington–actually going as far as to suggest the state should buy gold Glenn Beck-style to stave off this coming disaster.

We've never heard Stapleton's explanation for why this "hyperinflationary environment" never happened. We'd like to, and we hope to sometime between now and November. We get that 2010 was a heady time in Republican politics, and it was necessary to say all kinds of crazy things to win their support–but still. You'll have to forgive us if we can't take Stapleton's word on PERA's rate of return over their actual performance.

18 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. JeffcoBlue says:

    We get that 2010 was a heady time in Republican politics, and it was necessary to say all kinds of crazy things to win their support–but still.

    This might actually be his only excuse.

  2. bullshit! says:

    Walker Stapleton, goldbug! Pretty embarrassing for a supposed financial manager.

  3. PERA hopeful says:

    How the hell did this bozo beat Cary Kennedy?

    • Conserv. Head Banger says:

      I think my vote for Stapleton was more of an anti-Kennedy vote since she was one of the big backers behind the Amendment 23 fiasco on school funding.

      • OrangeFree says:

        Kennedy wanted what became Amendment 23 to be statutory so it could be tweaked if need be, but the education lobby forced the constitutional option down our throats. 

        She also pulled a shit ton of Colorado's investment portfolio out of Goldman-Sachs (I think it was Goldman-Sachs) right before the world blew up, saving us a lot of lost revenue.

        And all she got for doing an excellent job was booted out of office.

    • Voyageur says:

      It was just a republican year down ticket.  Even Bernie Buescher, s great SOS, lost.

    • Zappatero says:

      Cary Kennedy would've been excellent………

      • BlueCat says:

        talked to so many indie types who really didn't know jack about SOS or Treasurer but felt that since they voted for Dems for the big, high on the ticket positions they should avoid voting straight ticket, being non-partisan and all, and vote R for offices like those. Carey did a terrific job but Treasurer is so under the radar for the average low info voter. Heck, they often don't know who their congressman is. 

        • notaskinnycook says:

          Treasurer and SoS are suposed to be low profile jobs. There are only two reasons anyone ever thinks about the person with that title. One is if they really screw up (R.I.P, Vicky Buckley) The other is if they go grandstanding about some issue to raise their profile so they can run for another office (I'm looking at you, Mike Coffman).

          • BlueCat says:

            Which is why people who like to be independent and who voted for Dem Gov, Senator and Rep like to "balance" their ballot by giving their vote to Rs in those positions. The result is losing great people and gaining Gessler and GW's worthless cousin. In the case of SOS, it's an increasingly important position in the era of Republicans desperately fighting demographics with rear guard voter suppression efforts so losing that one can be particularly damaging to the democratic process. When we do GOTV we have to stress how important the position of SOS is and why we need to vote against voter suppressing Rs.

    • hawkeye says:

      Cary Kennedy voted for SB10-1, so many PERA members and retirees voted for her opponent as payback.  However, I assume many of them now regret their vote.

  4. Old Time Dem says:

    PERA is projecting a 7.5% average return , which does seem aggressive given that long-term annuity rates are currently in the 3-4% range.  Cherry-picking the last two years returns is just stupid;  the five year return ending in 2011, for example, was only 2.1%.

    Stapleton is a dope, but if Markey is defending 7.5% on the basis of 2012 and 2013 performance, she might be one as well.

    • JeffcoBlue says:

      I hope we're not basing future projections off the Great Recession either. That's what you're doing and that seems as silly to me as assuming it will always be 15%.

    • Andrew Carnegie says:

      7,5 isn't aggressive, it is a recipe for disaster.

      • Moderatus says:

        Libs don't worry, there's always another taxpayer bailout.

        • ANItwo says:

          Libs and conservators both better worry, there may NOT be another bailout because state employees and pensioners are tired of balancing the state budget on their backs, and subsidizing Social Security*, all while providing the state's largest sluch fund for charter and public schools (plus whatever other pet projects and corporate welfare the legilature and governor are throwing our money at!).

          You smug little fashists like Rosen and Carroll may just get what you're asking for … and then when the electorate find out what you've done you'll be run out of town on a rail.

          Ms. Markey doesn't really have a clue about PERA, she's just a candiadte for Treasurer; but unlike Stapleton she isn't runninh around acting like she knows the solution (or even what's wrong) with PERA, if indeed there is anything wrong.


          * footnote – Yes,  windfall and offset provisions of Soc. Security means most FICA contributions by PERA recipients will never result in any Soc. Sec. benefits … those contributions just go to help private sector workers by funding the Soc. Sec. trust funds.

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