LETTERS | Week of November 13

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Correction: The Avery IPA festival was listed in “Choose your festival” (Beer tour, Nov. 6) as occurring Saturday, April 8. That event was Saturday, November 8.

Danish misses the point on GMOs

I read in the aftermath of the election and the voter rejection of Proposition 105 — RighttoKnow Colorado Label GMOs initiative — your column called “Danish Plan” where once more pulpit time was given to Danish’s ill-conceived and misinformed opinions about genetically engineered food [Re “Dad’s insecticides and Proposition 105,” Oct. 30].

I swallowed my disbelief and struggled through the sentimental (and fanciful) story about his father’s work with pesticides after WWII and made it to the end where I read, “Proposition 105 is intellectually dishonest, politically and morally evil, and if it results in a resur rection of conventional pesticide use, a threat to public health, the environment and the food supply [sic]. A ‘no’ vote is an unqualified good.” Please let Mr. Danish know that there are “victims” of GMOs in abundance; he would find them if he cared to look. This columnist has no credibility with me.

Please consider retiring Mr. Danish. Cary MacDonald/Boulder

Use sculptures to tell more veterans’ stories 

This is a great project [Re: “The last man standing,” News, Nov. 6]. It would be great, too, if he could do a sculpture of a bomber crew. Fewer people are aware of how many crewmen were in a bomber, and there have been many fewer movies made of bombers than fighter pilots.

Jerry Campbell/via Internet

Elections count 

Was that an election? Or was it the puppet show from Sound of Music? The near-future will remind of Newt Gingrich and his “Contract with America,” to be sure. Be sure to hug your Medicare, Social Security, K-12 public education and federal public lands. These are now endangered species. Then what will you do?

Elections do have impacts. Had FDR been shot in Miami shortly before his first inauguration, we almost certainly would have lost WWII. If Nixon had been President in October 1962 none of us would be here (Cuban Missile Crisis for those too young).

Angry, voters? Again? If you grasp the ID of the true enemy you might be able to save the republic. After Citizens United, it’s OK to turn our government from one man, one vote to one dollar, 100 votes. Free speech for corporations isn’t free; we all pay.

We still must take out the trash and tend to our day. But continued kneejerk, listen-to-the-hype-from-Wichita voting practices might lead to a turn where gas masks are needed in the halls of Congress for reasons other than the stench from its occupants.

Greg Iwan/Longmont

Colorado needs public employee pension protection laws

In Colorado, conservative think tanks (backed by Wall Street firms that stand to financially gain) are spreading anti-public-worker propaganda claiming that PERA (Public Employees’ Retirement Association) employees and retirees are greedy parasites and their exorbitant benefits are going to bankrupt the state. They cite billions of dollars of unfunded pension liabilities as debt that taxpayers will have to pay off. Their tactics are to manufacture the perception of a public pension crisis and their only solution to “save PERA” is to drastically cut benefits and privatize the pension plan. They would like to strip PERA employees and retirees of their rights to their earned pension benefits and allow Wall Street hedge fund managers to raid PERA assets.

They don’t mention that the Colorado State Legislature has been underfunding its employers’ obligations to PERA for 12 years and that state employers’ unfunded liabilities have accrued into billions of dollars. (Note: These are state employers’ unfunded liabilities. New GASB accounting rules now require state employers to report their unfunded actuarially accrued liabilities owed to PERA in their annual financial statements).

Prior to 2003, the Colorado State Legislature had always met its employers’ actuarially required contributions (ARC) to PERA at 100 percent and since PERA began in 1931, it has weathered every recession. Beginning in 2003 (under Governor Owens) to the present, the state legislature has decided not to fund what actuaries have determined is the state employers’ percentage of payroll (ARC) required to keep the PERA trust fund sound. (PERA employees have always met their required employee contributions to PERA from their monthly paychecks without fail).

According to statistics from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College Public Plans database, the ARC percentages the Colorado State Legislature paid to its employers’ State division were: 2003 = 69 percent, 2004 = 51 percent, 2005 = 48 percent, 2006 = 58 percent, 2007 = 56 percent, 2008 = 63 percent, 2009 = 61 percent. From 2003 to 2009, the Colorado State Legislature created a 42 percent funding shortfall in its State division.

PERA’s underfunding can be directly traced to the Colorado State Legislature’s failure to make its employers’ actuarially required contributions.

If you ask your state legislator why the state is not meeting its employers’ annual required contributions to PERA, they may not even be aware that the state legislature is underfunding PERA, or even know what an ARC is. They will likely say, “Oh, PERA was fixed in 2010 with SB 1,” but they won’t answer your question. If you keep asking, some legislators may not want to talk with you because they do know. They know the money is being diverted and they know retirees got fleeced with SB 1.

In 2010, the Colorado State Legislature passed Senate Bill 10-001 with pension reforms that broke its contractual obligations with 50,000 PERA retirees. SB 1 primarily targeted this elderly group with the burden of making up billions of dollars, or 90 percent of the state’s unfunded employers’ contribution shortfall to the PERA fund since 2003. SB 1 was not a “shared sacrifice” as PERA administrators purported in order to sell the deal to employees.

Political alliances between corporate lobbyists, legislators and PERA administrators forged this bait and switch deal that was precut outside normal legislative processes. Primarily retirees (not taxpayers) will make up for the billions of dollars of state employers’ contributions diverted from the PERA trust fund that the state legislature has used instead to fund multimillion-dollar corporate handouts and business tax breaks, subsidies and other popular discretionary programs without raising taxes. It’s immoral and corrupt to take elderly middle-class retirees’ earned pension benefits (deferred wages) by stealthy means and shift their wealth to subsidize very very wealthy corporate and business interests. (Google: David Sirota’s report, “The Plot Against Pensions — The Pew-Arnold campaign to undermine America’s retirement security — and leave taxpayers with the bill.” and Matt Taibbi’s article, “Looting the Pension Funds.”) There is also a double standard in Colorado law (SB12-149) that protects county government retirees’ pensions while PERA retirees’ benefits can be abrogated. The PERA retirees’ class action lawsuit against the State of Colorado and PERA for breach of contract is now before the Colorado Supreme Court. Will big corporations try to influence our courts’ decision to protect their colorado corporate subsides? (Google: Center for Public Integrity, Chris Young, “Koch brothers, major corporations sponsor pension reform seminar for judges — Attendees could decide fate of contentious cases across the nation.”) Since enacting SB 10-001, the Colorado State Legislature has continued to underfund its employers’ contributions to the PERA trust fund, even with a $512 million-dollar budget surplus. The 2013 Colorado PERA Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, page 34, states: “In 2013, the actual contributions, as set in statute, were $278.0 million less than the ARC as calculated by the actuaries.”

For 12 years, why have PERA trustees not taken action on behalf of public employees to compel the state legislature to fully fund their employers’ contributions to PERA instead of conspiring with corporate lobbyists in 2010 to break the contracts of 50,000 retirees to make up the debt. Every year, the state legislature can always find plenty of money to hand out more and more corporate tax breaks and subsidies, yet the State of Colorado continues to be a deadbeat employer.

A subsidy tracker report published by Good Jobs First, “Subsidizing the Corporate One Percent,” found that three-quarters of all the economic development dollars awarded by state and local governments in the name of job creation have gone to just 965 large corporations by tracing parent company to subsidiary ties. The New York Times’ report, “United States of Subsidies,” found Colorado spends at least $995 million per year on incentive programs. CU News Corps’ four part series, “House of Subsidies,” analyzed this year’s Colorado legislative session and the key corporate tax-credit incentive bills lawmakers passed and found that they don’t always work as lawmakers intend and their effectiveness is being challenged by a variety of experts whose candid remarks are worth the read. CU News Corps reporter, Lars Gesing states, “According to the latest Enterprise Zone Annual Report, 7,212 jobs have been created through Enterprise Zone program incentives in fiscal year 2013. At the same time, businesses claimed tax credits for $3.89 billion worth of investments, or more than $530,000 per job.” The Denver Post in 2011 ran an investigative series on the Enterprise Zone program and found that Colorado companies claimed more than $75 million worth of tax credits in 2010, but those companies only created a net 564 jobs.

Colorado PERA employees and retirees deserve a pension plan that is adequately funded on an annual basis. Colorado should pass laws similar those recently passed in Tennessee. On May 28, 2014, Republican Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee signed into law a bill called Public Employee Defined Benefit Financial Security Act of 2014 that requires all local government entities that operate pension plans in Tennessee to pay the payments recommended by their actuaries each year in order to protect the financial stability of local governments and to protect workers’ pensions. (http://www.tn.gov/sos/ acts/108/pub/pc.0990.pdf ) Dinah McKay/Boulder

Walmart is bad for business in Boulder

Walmart is an unhealthy presence in towns where it locates. It strangles local businesses. It puts dangerously high workload pressures on workers and pays them so meagerly that they often have to collect food stamps to survive. It intimidates, punishes, and retaliates against workers who question company policies & practices. It has been convicted and fined for the pollution and environmental damage it causes. It uses third world sweat shops that force workers to labor too many hours in poor, unsafe conditions, for miserably low pay. It accelerates to the flow of money from ordinary people to the super-wealthy — six Walton family members have more money than the lower third of Americans combined. And during the year since they opened a store in Boulder, they have not improved their behavior.

One way for shoppers to act on their conscience is to avoid shopping at Walmart.

Arden Buck/Nederland

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