Senate Bill 12-84 – PERA Transparency

SB 12-084 is sponsored by Senator  Kent Lambert (R-Colorado Springs) and Representative Spencer Swalm  (R-Centennial). Currently, law provides that all  information contained in records of members, former members, inactive members,  and benefit recipients, as well as records of participants in PERA defined  contribution plans, be kept confidential by PERA. The bill would create an exception to current law and require PERA publicly disclose certain PERA information on individual elected officials and cabinet-level  appointees of elected officials on a yearly  basis.

Information to be reported would include the member’s name, each  position held during employment with a PERA employer, the annual salary  paid for each position, the employer and employee contributions paid on  that salary, age of retirement, Highest Average Salary, and amount of any  benefits paid.

CCRS opposes this bill, as releasing this information would not give an accurate picture of PERA’s finances or serve any purpose to help secure PERA.

  • The PERA Board of Trustees voted to oppose SB 84, as under current law it owes the duty of confidentiality to all members.
  • As fiduciaries, the Board of Trustees must act in their best interests of its members. It is highly questionable as to how releasing members’ records to the public serve the members’ best interests. In addition, to break out a specific class of members violates the principle of equity.
  • One of the major flaws of the bill is that there is no precise definition of what is an “elected official” or “cabinet member of elected official.”
  • Even if PERA did know the definitions of these “officials,” PERA has no records for current or former active members that contain their title or position. To acquire this information would mean surveying all of our members and employers. Therefore, the provisions of the bill that require the release of such information prior to the end of 2012 would place a high administrative burden upon PERA that would likely be in the millions of dollars and require additional staff.
  • There are probably many PERA members or retirees who hold or have held positions as elected officials such as special district board members, city council members, county commissioners, legislators, as well as statewide elected officials such as the Governor, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Attorney General. PERA would have to rely on all of our 485,000 members to accurately report to us if this applies to them. This would be a process that would be very difficult to verify as being thoroughly correct.
  • SB 84 may have a chilling effect on public employees considering running for public office, and conversely, a potential employee for a PERA employer may be discouraged from taking a PERA-covered job if they have ever received compensation as a result of being an elected official for a PERA employer since their member record would be made public.
  • The term “Member Plan Solvency Information” contained in the bill has no relation to how a pension plan really functions. Information required to be disclosed by this bill does not represent the entire funded status picture of the retirement plan.
  • PERA already provides far more detailed information related to plan sustainability in the annual actuarial valuation which is contained within the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). The CAFR and the annual actuarial valuation are formally presented to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee of the General Assembly each year. The CAFR contains information based on an analysis of all of PERA’s 485,000 members, rather than a specific subset.
  • Legislation enacted in 2010 (Senate Bill 1) returned PERA to long-term sustainability.
  • PERA takes membership record confidentiality very seriously and SB 84 is a step toward having all member and retiree financial information publicly available.

You can read the bill in its entirety here.