Keep up with threats to Iowa's public pension funds

Republican lawmakers are considering big changes to the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System (IPERS). The Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank funded through the Koch brothers network, has been studying the matter at the invitation of GOP State Senator Charles Schneider. That group recommends converting IPERS from a defined-benefit plan (with guaranteed payments for public employees) to a defined-contribution plan like a 401(k). Under that scenario, some 350,000 IPERS members would have to pay investment fees and could receive lower returns when they retire.

Similar changes could affect Iowans who pay into the Municipal Fire & Police Retirement System, Peace Officers’ Retirement System, or Judicial Retirement System.

Democratic lawmakers and staff have created a new e-mail list for Iowans wanting to stay informed about threats to public pension funds. This list will function much like the Iowa Statehouse Progressive Network, created at the beginning of this year's legislative session, but with updates and action alerts related to state retirement issues.

The Iowa Senate Democrats announced in an October 10 e-mail blast,

Democrats believe every worker deserves a secure retirement. That includes the hundreds of thousands of Iowans who contribute part of each paycheck to one of Iowa’s public retirement systems.

Our public retirement systems are well managed and fiscally sound. However, because Republicans now control Iowa's state government from top to bottom, those funds could be at risk.

Here are three reasons why:

1. As soon as she became Iowa’s Governor, Kim Reynolds said making changes to IPERS was one of her top three priorities.

2. Legislation to end IPERS, Senate File 45, could be debated this January. In just the last three months, Republicans have twice invited an out-of-state, right-wing think tank (the so-called Reason Foundation) to Iowa to argue against IPERS.

3. During the 2017 legislative session, Iowa Republicans repeatedly passed extreme legislation without meaningful public input. The same rushed process could be used to eliminate IPERS. In other states, legislatures have raided retirement funds. Iowa could be next.

That’s why Iowans whose families depend on one of our public retirement funds must prevent Republicans from raiding those funds.

The purpose of the Iowa Public Retirement Alerts is to provide Iowa’s public employees with the information you need to protect your retirement and your family. Sign up for these alerts so that you get the latest information to take action.

For background on the history and solvency of IPERS, read this Status Update, prepared in advance of a July legislative hearing.

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