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Colorado House passes amended pension reform bill, shifting higher contributions to the state

Colorado Capitol, Denver

Updated with correction

The Colorado House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill designed to improve the funded status of the $49 billion Colorado Public Employees' Retirement Association, Denver, and lower its overall risk.

Senate Bill 18-200, which was introduced on March 7, passed by a 38-23 vote in the House after modifications to the bill were made. The bill includes an extra state contribution of $225 million to PERA.

However, on Wednesday the Senate did not concur with the House amendments. As a result, the Senate appointed members to a conference committee, and the House will soon have to do the same. Once they do, members of the conference committee "will have to come to a compromise before it goes to the governor and before the session ends on May 9," said Colorado PERA spokeswoman Katie Kaufmanis in an email.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Jack Tate, a Republican, said in an email that this is "a procedural motion that just says we are not agreeing to the House version of the bill in general and initiating a conference committee to finalize an agreement between chambers." Mr. Tate added that the conference committee will be held "in the next couple of days."

The bill differs from the one the Senate passed March 29 by a 19-16 vote; there are no employee increases in the House bill.

The House and Senate versions both include automatic adjustment provisions to ensure that PERA remains on the path to full funding in 30 years in part by modifying the annual cost-of-living adjustment for retirees to offset any deviation from the 30-year funding time frame. PERA was 58.1% funded as of Dec. 31, 2016, according to the most recent information on the pension fund's website.

The Senate version has current participants seeing a phased-in employee contribution increase over the next few years to 11% of pay from the current 8%, starting in July 2018.

In both versions, the current annual COLA for participants that started receiving benefits prior to Jan. 1, 2007, is 2%. For 2018 and 2019, the bill reduces the COLA to zero. For each year thereafter, the bill changes the COLA to 1.25%.

The bill would also require PERA to report to an interim legislative committee to ensure progress is being made toward full funding. This committee would also have the power to consider and recommend legislation regarding PERA to the full General Assembly.

In addition, the House's version eliminates allowing new school district and local government employees to choose between the PERA defined contribution plan and the hybrid defined benefit plan. State employees have been able to choose since 2006.

The full text of the bill is available on the state Legislature's website.