Government

Democrats, GOP continue war of words over future of IPERS

Governor says state employee retirement system 'a promise'

Danny Homan

AFSCME Council 61
Danny Homan AFSCME Council 61

CEDAR RAPIDS — A week ahead of Halloween, Democrats and Republicans are accusing each other of using scare tactics in the governor’s race.

Democrats and public employee unions continued their statewide tour telling Iowans that Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republican legislators are going to gut IPERS, the public service workers retirement system.

In recent days, GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republican lawmakers have spoken out in defense of the IPERS, which paid nearly $2 billion in benefits last year, attempting to assure Iowans, especially the 350,000 IPERS members, that they are not planning to overhaul the program.

“Working Iowa families, including IPERS recipients, have many good reasons to be skeptical of promises made by members of the Republican Party,” Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Council 61, said at a Thursday news conference in Cedar Rapids.

Iowa Democrat Party Chairman Troy Price said Republican claims sound like the “same sort of broken promises that we have seen from Republicans and this administration when they talked about changes to Medicaid, for example, right before they turned it into a privatized mess.

“Or when they told us they were going to tweak our collective bargaining law we had in place for 40 years and then went ahead and, in the span of 10 days, completely gutted that law.”

Reynolds, campaigning in Iowa City, called the attacks baseless and suggested they indicate her Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell is having a hard time convincing voters to support him.

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“When you don’t have any ideas, any vision, anything to run on, you resort to scare tactics. It’s just silly,” she said.

Reynolds worked in local government for 19 years, served in the Senate for two years and has been lieutenant governor or governor for seven years.

“I’m counting on my pension. That’s part of my retirement. I don’t have a trust fund,” she said, referring to Hubbell’s personal wealth.

According to IPERS, it paid $1.9 billion in benefits last year, including $1.7 billion to retirees in Iowa. The average recipient received $17,000.

In Linn County, 5,951 recipients received nearly $106 million last year. In Johnson County, 3,125 received $55 million in benefits.

That means IPERS is not only retirement for more than 350,000 Iowans, “it is critical Iowa’s economy,” Homan said.

The thing voters need to understand, said IPERS Board ex officio member Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, “is that Democrats will protect IPERS.”

“She needs to quit lying about what her intent is,” Mascher said.

Reynolds doesn’t see a need to change the system that is 80 percent funded.

“We’re one of the best in the country,” she said. “We’re in a good place. There’s no reason for us to do anything different.”

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“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.

l Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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