Government

Rally at Capitol supports IPERS

GOP leader says change rumor is 'fake news'

The State Capitol is illuminated by the sunset in Des Moines on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The State Capitol is illuminated by the sunset in Des Moines on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Groups representing public employees and Democratic-leaning organizations rallied Monday at the Capitol in hopes of fending off any changes to the public employee retirement program that covers nearly 1 in 10 Iowans, known as IPERS.

“We want to remind our elected officials of the strong promises they made during their campaigns to stay away from IPERS,” Yvonne Hogan said at a news conference organized by the Progress Iowa group.

Although Republican legislative leaders have said they have no intention of making changes to the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System, speakers said they were skeptical.

“You’ll pardon us, however, for being a little leery of election promises as we have been tricked before,” said Hogan, a retired schoolteacher.

She was referring to sweeping restrictions the GOP-controlled Legislature made to public employee collective bargaining rights in 2017 after saying they planned only to “tweak” the law.

A spokesman for House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said it was “fake news” that the GOP majority is planning to change IPERS from a defined benefits plans to a defined contribution plan as some have suggested.

“This news conference is simply an attempt by Democrats and their allied organizations to generate a news story and continue to spread misinformation to Iowans,” Colin Tadlock said.

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Upmeyer and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, both called talk of changes to IPERS a “scare tactic.”

“The unions are telling people that,” Whitver said. “The state leaders that actually make that decision aren’t telling people that. We’re not going to do that.”

In the past, changes to IPERS have been made after being suggested by the system’s board, Upmeyer said.

“We were very clear from the very beginning that we didn’t have any IPERS initiative on the burner that we’re working on,” she said.

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, a member of the IPERS Investment Board, said she has been assured by Republican House leaders they have no intention of making changes to IPERS.

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

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