Letter to the Editor

Leave IPERS alone

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Governor, Lt. Governor, and their Party are attacking future (and possibly present) police, fire fighters, public school teachers, city, county, and state employees with their proposed IPERS Task Force and SF 45 bill. See https://legiscan.com/IA/text/SF45/2017.

They say there is nothing on paper yet as they want to form a Task Force to look at eliminating pension systems and IPERS as we know it. But why?

1. IPERS has worked well for 64 years.

2. It ranks as one of the top 10 managed funds in the U.S.

3. Lt. Governor Reynolds even served on the IPERS Board for 5 years. Why did she not want this change then?

4. It is good for Iowa’s economy as it helps insure against old age poverty.

5. A defined benefit system attracts and retains top quality individuals.

6. It is working well and liked by the 350,000 individuals and families that are affected.

7. The State Treasurer says it is working fine and to leave it alone.

So why would we completely change IPERS, a system that is working well and is liked by about 349,900 members (except maybe the Governor, Lt. Governor and party members). Why not just tweak it to make it even better, especially when Lt. Governor Reynolds has stated she wants Iowa to rank number 1 in education?

Could it be political payback as Unons tend to vote more Democratic than Republican? Governor Branstad has already proposed eliminating insurance from collective bargaining to go to a program similar to Obama-Care which he was against. By changing IPERS from a defined benefit program to a defined contribution program along with the elimination of collective bargaining, he will have effectively eliminated the major unions in Iowa just as Scott Walker did in Wisconsin. He said he loves Iowa. Is this how he shows he values the police, fire fighters, teachers, city, county, and state officials whom this would affect? For example, in Wisconsin, it dropped teacher wages and benefits about $8,000 per year. It also dropped students going into teacher education programs by 50%. Is this how we get to be #1 in education? It will be difficult to keep quality individuals or even find individuals to go into the above professions or work in small town county hospitals or police forces.

Would there be any representatives from police, fire, education, judicial system, county hospitals, city, county, state government, IPERS, IPERS employees, or the state treasurer, on the proposed Task Force or just Big Businesses who have switched to a defined contribution system? According to Governor Branstad on 1/31/17, he said John Deere, Mid American, and Dupont Pioneer would likely be represented. Would that be a Task Force or a How Do We Change It Group? Why wouldn’t you have representatives from all sides, not just a one-sided task force? Why not look for ways to tweak a great system instead of changing it? Why wasn’t any of this brought up during the past election campaigns? All that was said was how he and his party supported education and the very first thing they do when the legislature convenes is cut education and then set up a Task Force to gut the retirement systems for Iowa employees. Broken promises.

Why wasn’t this proposed in the past? Because the system works very well and, oh yeah, the Governor did not have complete control of both houses. We do not allow bullying in our schools, but in politics that seems to be how it works. Presently, it does not look like they want to make changes for people presently under the system as that would be a political hot potato and political suicide, but for future employees. That does not seem fair. The people that would be affected the most, get no say and are not even old enough to vote... Don’t we have more pressing issues rather than fixing things that are working well?

They will claim that big businesses are going away from a defined benefit system. So what? Businesses are not the same as the State of Iowa. That is comparing apples to oranges. They will say it is less risky for taxpayers. For 64 years it has worked and is as strong now as it has ever been. IPERS members make up a large portion of those taxpayers plus any system that is over 80% funded (83.9% and on the way to being 100%) is in great shape according to the experts. If IPERS ever got in trouble, the entire nation is in trouble! They say it is not portable. If you leave an IPERS job, you can take out what you have put in! Lt. Governor Reynolds also said she wants to increase family incomes by 25%. How does that happen with continual individual property tax increases due to lack of educational funding (1.1% for next year), eliminating or reducing taxes cities and counties are able to levy by allowing companies in Iowa who do business nationwide to shift profits out and expenses in so they pay little or no tax, and giving FOREIGN companies like Orascom over 200 million in state and county tax incentives at a cost of 1 million per job to Iowa taxpayers? How is this helping Iowa’s middle class? Let the actuaries do their job and make tweaks to IPERS, like they have in the past, to ensure one of the best programs in the country stays strong, gets stronger, and continues to recruit and maintain the best employees for Iowa. As a 42 year veteran in education I can think of three ideas that would make the system stronger but will I or others like me have any input?

Maybe we should look at doing what is best for individual Iowans, present and future, Iowa’s economy, present and future, and not doing something just because we have the power to do so or we have an axe to grind. If changing IPERS was a really good idea, it would have been done years ago plus there would be bi-partisan support and there is none.