DENVER — The veto of a bill that would have helped Colorado's $26 billion pension plan become fully funded is setting up a knock-down, drag-out match between the state's largest pension plan and its defined contribution plans when the Legislature resumes in January.
The fight will center on whether counties can voluntarily leave the $512 million Colorado County Officials and Employees Retirement Association, which offers a 401(a) and 457 plan, and join the Public Employees' Retirement Association of Colorado — bringing their assets with them.
"This strikes at the core of the DB vs. DC issue," said Katie Kaufmanis, director of communications for the Public Employees' Retirement Association of Colorado. "I think January will be very interesting."
Over the summer, Gov. Bill Owens vetoed a bill that PERA executives say would have helped the pension plan become fully funded. At the same time, one of the largest counties in the state, Jefferson County, wanted to take its money from the county officials' plan and switch to PERA. At the time, Jefferson County employee assets comprised about 40% of CCOERA assets.
However, CCOERA's plan does not allow money to leave the plan unless an employee retires or has a "distributable event" like leaving county employment, said Jerry Allen, interim executive director of CCOERA.
"Just because the county moves its money does not mean there's been a distributable event," Mr. Allen said.