State treasurer challenger defends PERA

The state’s treasurer isn’t working full time, is hardly transparent with how he runs his office, doesn’t offer much innovation to the job and is rarely available to state officials and the public, his Democratic opponent said Monday.

Former congresswoman Betsy Markey, who is trying to unseat the Republican incumbent in November, said Walker Stapleton just isn’t the right person to stay in that position.

Markey said the only issue Stapleton focuses on is the state’s Public Employees’ Retirement Association, and then only to criticize it, even though it’s working just fine.

“This is a big, dynamic state,” Markey told the editorial board of The Daily Sentinel. “We turn big ideas into reality, and the treasurer’s office should be no different. We can’t just focus on beating down teachers and state workers and their pension program.”

Since taking the job in 2010, Stapleton has been highly critical of the board that oversees PERA, saying its expectation of high returns is unrealistic even though it’s realized 15 percent and 12 percent returns on those investment the past two years, respectively. State treasurers serve on that board as part of their jobs.

Markey, who represented the Eastern Plains in Congress for one term in 2008-09, said problems with PERA’s long-term sustainability were largely addressed by the Legislature years ago, which helped turn the state’s largest public pension system into one of the nation’s best.

In short, “the sky is not falling” as Stapleton claims, she said.

“My view on PERA is that we need to strengthen and protect a system that covers at least 500,000 people in this state,” she said. “Teachers, firefighters, state troopers, other state workers either pay into or are PERA recipients. About 90 percent of that money stays in Colorado, so it’s also a huge economic driver.”

Although Markey said she has no issues with how Stapleton is handling the state’s investments, she credits most of that to the career staff that works there regardless of who holds the top job.

She said that office, however, could be more transparent, saying Stapleton hasn’t produced a State Taxpayer Accountability Report since early 2011, and that his office’s website yields little information about how the state’s tax dollars are spent.

Markey also criticized Stapleton for maintaining work as a consultant for his family’s financial-real estate business, Sonoma West, to supplement his $68,500-a-year job.

“This will be my full-time job, I will be fully transparent, I will be innovative, and I will make sure that I’m around all of Colorado,” she said. “I do not find (Stapleton) innovative, I don’t think his office is always as transparent as it should be, and he’s not that visible around the state Capitol or around the state ... and I know he’s got a consulting agreement with his former company to work. I’m not planning on having another job.”


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