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.”
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.
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