The legislative session came to a close last week, and while we made progress on some policy issues, like water and referring redistricting and reapportionment ballot issues, there were two critical areas we shared more details about at our annual State of the State luncheon on Friday. Both of these issues came right down to the wire, too:
Addressing the State’s $32 Billion Unfunded Pension Liability
Senate Bill 200 started strong and finished with a compromise we could support. Going into the session we felt strongly that the state’s largest and fastest growing liability must be addressed. We also recognized that shared sacrifice was required – everybody contributing something to help reduce this liability, including taxpayers and employers, employees, retirees and new hires. What passed was just that:
- Taxpayers will help with the state dedicating $225 million annually from the general fund.
- Employee contributions increased 2 percent.
- Employer contributions were adjusted to a 0.25 percent increase and require employers pay the PERA contribution based on the employee’s higher gross salary, rather than the salary after taxes.
- New hires will work longer, increasing the retirement age to 64.
- Retirees receive lower cost of living adjustments (COLA): For current retirees, the COLA will go to zero for two years and will maintain it at 1.5 percent, down from the current 2 percent.
The bill also creates a new legislative oversight structure, which we strongly supported to help ensure the state pays close attention to whether PERA is on course to achieve full funding by 2048.
Thank you to Sen. Jack Tate and Majority Leader KC Becker for not only sponsoring this bill but also working with us this past year to identify a path forward. Thanks also go to Rep. Dan Pabon and Sen. Kevin Priola for your leadership on this critical bill.
Increasing Funding for Transportation
Senate Bill 1 was the first bill to be introduced in the Senate this session – and it was one of the last to pass. It was a roller coaster of amendments and negotiations – only one thing was absolutely clear: everybody at the Capitol supported increased funding for transportation.
But where this bill landed doesn’t do much to address our state’s transportation needs. The Colorado Department of Transportation has a $9 billion project list and an estimated $20 billion need over the next 20 years. So, when we account for the one-time funding and the long-term commitment (if approved by voters in 2019), transportation only received about $60 million a year over what we had already secured last year. When you consider that CDOT’s lane miles covers only 12 percent of our total miles of roads in the state (the other 88 percent being maintained by cities and counties), it’s crystal clear that the passage of Senate Bill 1 will do very little to improve our transportation experience and our quality of life.
And, the statewide transportation coalition we have been part of for years has always said we should be about really solving the problem. There have been many leaders in the state on this issue of funding, but our metro mayors have been incredible, and in particular I recognize Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan. Mayor Hogan kept all of our feet to the fire this past year, accepting nothing less than a solution that would honestly improve the lives of those he served. Mayor Hogan passed away this weekend but his passion to serve Aurora residents, his leadership for our region and his vision for our state will continue to shape us for years to come.
Like the coalition partners, our members also feel strongly that we can and should do better for all Coloradans. We will continue to advocate that we move forward with a ballot initiative in November and dedicate the revenues to transportation so we can get the results we deserve. You can read more about the ballot tiles the coalition has filed for November.
There will be lots more to come on that effort and we’ll share a full recap of the legislative session in the coming weeks as bills are signed by the governor.
Kelly Brough is the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber.