In the news: Letter to the editor: Support PERA (Alamosa Valley Courier)

Alamosa Valley Courier | Feb 28, 2018 | Letter to the editor: Support PERA

Have you ever thought about how many people in your town work for the state of Colorado? I am one of them. When I hear that an individual just obtained a state job my reply is, “Good for him, that is a job he can retire from.”

I am an employee at the Colorado Veterans Community Living Center at Home Lake, one of the many state facilities here in the San Luis Valley. As state employees we are fortunate to be part of a benefit program that is defined and maintained by PERA (Public Employees Retirement Association). Other State of Colorado employees of the San Luis Valley that are enrolled in a PERA benefit plan include: Colorado State Patrol, Adams State University, and Trinidad State College. I found that if I look in the phone book of Alamosa and the surrounding communities there are three rows of listings under Colorado State Government with many entities from the Department of Agriculture, to the Division of Wildlife. Just think, each town in Colorado has its own state and government businesses. The facility I work for alone employs over 80 individuals. As you can figure, the scope of the number of people that are PERA members, recipients, and inactive members is enormous.

What Is PERA? Membership consists of several divisions. I work for the state, but PERA also serves employees of the public-school system, local government, the judicial branch, and the Department of Public Safety. With a total of approximately 600,000 workers state wide. It is hard to fathom that some in the state government feel that PERA is on the verge of bankruptcy. Their plan is to introduce bills that would require bigger defined contributions for the employee and the employer. That makes this a shared sacrifice that I hope my employer and my fellow employees would come together and demand a stop any efforts to destabilize or dismantle the existing PERA benefit plan, including through a new or hybrid defined-contribution program, would be opposed. This bill also proposes to change the style of the benefit plan to a 401k. Many outside interests are also lobbying for changes to PERA these changes will only fund big banks and make money on Wall Street.

The numbers show that PERA does positively impact Colorado’s economy. There are approximately 33,000 jobs involved in the system. PERA is currently providing retirement distributions to some 90,000 Colorado residents. It is important that a defined retirement system be in place as part of a public servant’s compensation package. We should all support retirement security for all. I speak for all employees when I say, “I have devoted my life to this system and I expect to be compensated. Part of the employee’s salary creates these benefits and I feel that our legislature should be expanding retirement security for all”.

Who is PERA? I am PERA. The people of Colorado’s human services agencies and public servants are PERA. There are other alternatives. Thank you.

Geronimo Olivas

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