Concern, clarify – Iowa Public Employee Retirement System
Letter to the Editor
My letter is in response to Representative Dean Fisher’s response to Anne Michael’s letter to the editor, regarding IPERS. I feel compelled to clarify as I fear that I may have not been clear when Anne and I talked about the issue of IPERS and Senate File 634.
First let me begin in agreeing with Representative Fisher in that IPERS is sound and secure, currently. It is regarded as one of the soundest pension programs in the nation. Yes, most legislators, state employees, and Governor Reynolds are depending on IPERS for all of their retirement funds as well as public school teachers. It is true that during the last session there was not a bill in the legislature to fundamentally change IPERS .
However, it is also true that Senate File (SF) 634, a property tax bill, has the designation code for IPERS (331.424 or 97B) in it. The bill does not use the word IPERS. It only uses the code for IPERS in the property tax bill. (No, the IPERS fund did not move. It is still the IPERS fund, nor did the IPERS building move)
Now, I believe that there can be legitimate debate about the merits of this property tax bill, but I find it difficult to understand why the IPERS code was put into a property tax bill. Putting IPERS into a property tax law could affect IPERS in the future. To understand this bill, please think of all of your local government expenditures as a pie. The pie is the general fund. IPERS, until the final vote, was in the general fund for the tax bill. In fact, initially, ALL of employee benefit levies, including health, workman’s comp, and Social Security/Medicare, and IPERS were put into the general fund in this bill. Eventually, all of the employee benefits were taken out of the general fund part of the bill. Toledo mayor, Brian Sokol confirmed that IF the law had passed with IPER’s funds and employee benefits placed in cities’ general funds, cities would have had difficulty funding their IPERS’s obligation and other obligations without the ability to levy for those benefits. Other general obligations would suffer. The final bill took IPERS and employee benefits out of the general fund and left it as a separate levy. But, according to Mayor Sokol, IPERS and employee benefits are part of the 2% spending cap required by the law. In other words, if our tax levy needs to increase by more than 2%, including employee benefits, the new rules apply. The State of Iowa’s State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, who is chair of the IPER’s Investment Board, said IPERS could be pitted against other services down the road. Again, it begs the question as to WHY is IPERS even in a property tax bill?
Yes, by law, the cities would still have to meet their IPERS obligation.
Last spring, my husband, Jeff and I emailed Representative Fisher to please reconsider the whole bill, but we also asked him to take the IPERS language out of the bill. I reread those emails. In every one of his emails he reassures us that IPERS is safe and will not change; however, he never explains to us as to why the code is in the bill in the first place.
I am a member of the Face Book page “Don’t Touch My IPERS!” The page has 11,102 and growing concerned bi-partisan members, run by a handful of moderators. It doesn’t serve one political party. I am faithful about reading the posts and have seen numerous members state how they have asked their own district legislators why IPERS was put into a property tax bill. I have not seen that they have ever received an answer, so I asked that question to the group before I wrote this letter. Crickets, no knowledge of legislative reasoning has ever been given. This group is knowledgeable, and people do their research. Also, I have researched this bill from multiple sources. This bill is public record. One can go to Iowa.gov and search the database that the legislature uses to track bills. One can search for SF 634 to find the entire law. One can Google this and find multiple articles regarding this law. Should one do research and still not have an understanding, (On my part, it has taken a concerted effort), one could ask one’s mayor as well.
I understand how the elderly lady felt when she called Representative Fisher. I, too was frustrated, anxious, and, yes, I cried when this bill passed. In conversation with other IPERS members, I have found that many of those members were unaware that IPERS language was even in a property tax bill due to its designation only by code. Simply put, I, and I am sure other IPERS stake holders, would like to know the answer to why the IPERS code was put into a property tax bill.