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Democrats raise concern over retirement system changes

DES MOINES ? Two Statehouse Democrats told public employees and retirees Monday to stay ?vigilant? during the 2018 legislative session for potential Republican changes to their pension systems ? a warning a key GOP leader called a ?scare tactic? given there no alterations planned next year.


State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, a West Des Moines Democrat in his ninth term, and Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, called a news conference to express their concerns the 2018 session ?could bring sudden, unnecessary changes? to Iowa?s pension system which could ?harm Iowa public employees and communities where they live. ?


While revamping public pensions have not been on GOP priority lists, McCoy noted, Republicans entered the 2017 session saying they planned to ?tweak? Iowa?s collective bargaining law but ?in just 10 short days, that law was gutted? when overhaul legislation moved through both chambers and to then-Gov. Terry Branstad?s desk for his signature.


Given a bill was introduced in the Senate last year to revamp the Iowa Public Employees? Retirement System (IPERS) and other public retirement programs, McCoy said Iowans who are invested in those systems should know they may be at risk should majority Republicans decide to revisit current law.


?IPERS and Iowa?s other public pension plans are secure, strong, and sustainable,? said Fitzgerald. ?Some current legislative proposals to change IPERS could break the promise we have made to hard working Iowans since 1953.?


Rep. Dawn Pettengill, R-Mount Auburn, co-chair of the House-Senate Public Retirement Systems Committee, responded Monday by saying no changes to public retirement funds are being contemplated and accused Democrats in engaging in ?fear mongering tactics? to scare retirees.


?I do not see any changes, not even a semicolon, in the system,? Pettengill said in an interview. ?If there was something that needed to be addressed, we certainly would but there isn?t any problems. Everything is stable and secure and I really think it?s disgusting how Treasurer Fitzgerald and Sen. McCoy are trying to scare retirees when it?s unnecessary. They?re just trying to make a name for themselves.?


A new actuarial study Iowa Public Employees? Retirement System (IPERS) issued last week showed the system with about 350,000 members including current, former and retired employees of state government, cities, counties, school districts and other government agencies has unfunded liabilities totaled $6.96 billion for all membership groups on June 30. IPERS? assets had a market value of $30.8 billion, which was an increase of about $2.5 billion from a year earlier.


Pettengill said the funded ratio for all members topped 80 percent with a goal of amortizing the unfunded liability over the next 27 years.


A new actuarial study Iowa Public Employees? Retirement System (IPERS) issued last week showed the system with about 350,000 members including current, former and retired employees of state government, cities, counties, school districts and other government agencies has unfunded liabilities totaled $6.96 billion for all membership groups on June 30. IPERS? assets had a market value of $30.8 billion, which was an increase of about $2.5 billion from a year earlier.


Pettengill said the funded ratio for all members topped 80 percent with a goal of amortizing the unfunded liability over the next 27 years.


?So I don?t have any concerns about it. I think we?re in very good shape,? she said.


Next week the legislative panel Pettengill co-chairs is slated to evaluate Iowa?s public retirement systems, including IPERS, the Municipal Fire and Police Retirement System of Iowa (Iowa Code chapter 411), the Department of Public Safety Peace Officers? Retirement System (PORS), and the Judicial Retirement System.