Broken Promises: GOP Attempts End Run On IPERS

Do you recall all the Republican promises about protecting Iowa Public Employee Retirement System (IPERS) during the Hubbell/Reynolds campaign in 2018? Democrats warned repeatedly that Reynolds and the Republican legislators couldn’t be trusted.

Nevertheless, Reynolds and her Republican legislative buddies vowed over and over during that campaign that they would never touch IPERS or the Iowa Police and Firefighters Retirement Fund (411) this year. It was very difficult for Democrats to believe them since Senator Brad Zaun introduced legislation on the first day of last year’s session to replace IPERS and 411 with a 401-K plan. But, they all claimed they wouldn’t attempt that this year and any changes to public employees’ retirement funds were entirely off limits.

When asked about her protection of IPERS in various interviews in October, 2018, Reynolds’ responses were absolute. She said Democrats were trying to scare the public by accusing her and Republicans of intending to make changes to IPERS.

“I have made it extremely clear … I would never do anything that would take away those commitments that have been made,” said Reynolds. “No, we’re not doing anything … I want to be very clear. I hope you are all paying attention right now. That is a scare tactic.”

“We’ve made a promise. We’re going to follow through. That was a commitment that was made to them, and they can count on it,” Reynolds said.

House Republican Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer made similar promises in an October Des Moines Register opinion piece about protecting IPERS. “Unfortunately, Democrats are crisscrossing the state, holding meetings and panicking IPERS members that their pensions will be cut or eliminated altogether. This is absurd and the worst kind of politics. I would like to set the record straight: There are no planned changes to IPERS or any other public pension system. We will continue to keep our promise to IPERS members. IPERS members are in no danger of losing their pensions … The rumors and fear mongering being spread by Democrats are 100 percent false.”

Bobby Kaufman, Chair of the Iowa House State Government Committee, was even more adamant about protecting IPERS.  “There will be zero IPERS bills, period … End of story. End of discussion. No tweaks, no changes,” Kaufmann said. “I’m not even going to entertain changing the punctuation marks in the IPERS language…I have spoken to all 53 members of my caucus in the House [and] zero — not one, two, or five — zero, nada, zilch, none have any appetite for this whatsoever.”

Surprise, surprise!

The Iowa Republicans introduced and are considering HF 773, which will significantly threaten the ability of cities and counties to pay public employee benefits while meeting all their other expenses.  Their bill will cap cities and counties power to increase property taxes to no more than 2% regardless of their increase in costs and expenses. The effect of their proposed changes will endanger both the employment of current public employees, hiring of additional employees force (IPERS) public employee retirement benefits to compete directly with other budget demands.

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The Republicans are now claiming they will remove the changes to IPERS in this bill. Democrats are wondering why they added the IPERS changes in the first place if they are sincere about removing them later.

The Iowa Fiscal Partnership describes the bill as a “local finance strait jacket.”

“The bill would impose unprecedented state control over budgeting decisions of local, democratically elected city councils and county boards. The bill would force cuts in public services. Employee benefits now financed by a ‘trust and agency’ property tax levy will instead become part of a city’s general fund subject to the 2 percent cap. Counties similarly would be forced to include employee benefits under the cap. But increases in pension contributions and health insurance premiums are outside the control of cities and counties, and have been growing faster than 2 percent. Localities would be forced to cut other services in the face of continued inflation in health costs, and in pension contribution increases necessitated by recession and by failures of state policy.”

Democratic legislators are warning that this bill is an assault on public workers. Rep. Jennifer Konfrst D-Clive warned in the DM Register, “A House bill passed out of committee last week that threatens the future of IPERS and the retirement security of police officers, firefighters, and other law enforcement officials.”

Iowa Labor News describes the threat to IPERS and 411 employees by the Republican bill. “Increases in pension contributions and health insurance premiums are outside the control of cities and counties, and have been growing faster than two percent. This means that pension payments and local government essential services will be pitted against each other.”

As we approach 2020, we must remind voters of the Republicans’ broken promises on IPERS.


by Rick Smith
Posted 4/19/19

7 Comments on "Broken Promises: GOP Attempts End Run On IPERS"

  • While I’m no fan of Gov.. Reynolds, I do think IPERS should be taken a look at in regards to future hires. Outside of the public sector, pension plans are rare and have gone the way of the telegraph. Why should taxpayers be obligated to fund pension plans for govt employees while their private sector job doesn’t have one???

    It would be possible to keep “promises”: to existing IPERS employees to continue to fund their defined benefit plan while moving future hires to a 401k plan, similar to what private sector employees have by utilizing a “soft freeze.” This would generate long-term savings to the Iowa taxpayers while keep those “promises” of a fully funded defined benefit plan for current hires..

    • In reply to Pat Kinnick it doesn’t matter what the private sector does or does not do if the people working in private sector would unionize they would have a great retirement among other things.If the greedy ceo’s of private sector wouldn’t take such a lavish bonus when their profits are soaring and spread the wealth to the workers that did the labor to make the company’s prosper. The public workers invest in their retirement and provide a public service that many people don’t or can’t work because of the type of work we do. Many pubic employees are on a 24 hour call and respond when called to benefit the public they serve. So next time you need the police,fire department,DOT,healthcare workers,or prison guards just to name a few to keep you safe think about what legislators are trying to do!

    • The issue is not whether IPERS should be continued without change. The issue is that Republicans promised over and over that no changes would be made, and now they are reneging on that promise.

  • Please ask Governor Kim Reynolds to veto SF634. All retirement language needs to be removed from the property tax bill for her to keep her promise to Iowa.

    You can the Facebook group called don’t touch my IPERS!

  • Pat- I agree. We can keep promises and change future promises. Ed, you misunderstand how the system works. By law governmental heath care workers are paid roughly twice what the government allows private care givers. They write the contracts. People do the same job and -BY LAW- receive half the pay if they work for a private healthcare provider, Unionizing wouldn’t help. Every private healthcare CEO I know would love to be allowed to pay governmental rates. It is against the law.

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