Colorado Pension Reform Heads to Conference Committee

A number of differences in the House and Senate versions of a new bill calls for debate.

Republicans and Democrats will debate over a number of differences between measures in a recently passed pension reform bill as it heads to conference committee.

Although Senate Bill 200 has passed in both the House and the Senate, the two versions of the bill have stark contrasts.

In addition to pushing a 401(k)-style plan for all pubic workers, the Republican-led Senate version wants to move the $225 million-per-year costs to public sector employees towards the $42 billion Public Employees’ Retirement Association pension system. The Democratic House’s measure has the state supplying the multi-million dollar contributions instead.

The House had eliminated the hybrid plan from the bill after it had amended the Senate’s plan.

Another difference between the two versions is the retirement age. Under the Senate bill, the minimum retirement age was raised to 65 from 58. The House variation had set the bar to 60. Each bill also used different formulas when calculating benefits and employee contribution requirements.

Republican Kevin Van Winkle called the passage of the House bill “a Band-Aid” at best, saying that it helps the beneficiaries while hurting the taxpayers.

House Majority Leader KC Becker, a Democrat, put the responsibility to pass the measure in the hands of the General Assembly, telling The Denver Channel she would “encourage the body to carry out our legislative responsibility.”

The Housed passed the bill Tuesday in a 38-23 vote on its third reading. Four lawmakers were excused, with three Republicans given 21C waivers for conflicts of interest, the Channel said.

The retirement system is plagued with a $32 billion to $50 billion funding deficit, depending on  estimates. Last fall, the S&P threatened to downgrade Colorado if the debt is not paid off in 30 years.

The date of the conference committee has not been announced.

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