DALLAS — A bill to authorize up to $10 billion of pension obligation bonds for the Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association died in committee as the state General Assembly entered its last day.
House Bill 15-1388 was introduced eight days before the session's end, drawing criticism from lawmakers who considered the measure too complex to consider in such a short period of time. That included one of the Senate's prime sponsors, Sen. Chris Holbert, who withdrew as a sponsor on May 1.
After winning final passage in the House May 1, the bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee, which voted to delay consideration indefinitely.
Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, was the lone Senate sponsor of the measure dubbed SCORE for "Securing Contributions for Retirement Earnings."
Supporters, who included the governor's office, the state treasurer's office and the Colorado Coalition for Retirement Security, said it could have saved $4.5 billion over time.
Although the bill appeared to be a last-minute measure, CoPERA Executive Director Greg Smith told the Denver Post that the proposal had been on the drawing boards for more than a year. However, there was little evidence of that in the media coverage. PERA's board did not vote on the proposal until April 23.
PERA defended the behind-the-scenes maneuvering, telling the Post it was important that all parties at the table signed off prior to taking it to the legislature.
"If the worst they say is no; nothing changes for us, we are still sustainable," Smith told the Post. "The reforms from 2010 are still working. We still have all the money we need and a steady stream of income to pay all the benefits that we owe everyday going forward."
PERA's funding of its pension obligations is estimated at 64%, but the bonds could have raised that ratio to as high as 80%, backers estimated. Supporters cited the low interest rates available in the municipal bond market as one reason to go forward. They said that investment of the bond proceeds could easily return a higher rate than the interest to service the taxable debt.