By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4)– State lawmakers strike an 11th hour deal to stabilize Colorado’s pension system which has $32 billion in unfunded obligations.
The deal came on the same day the House of Representatives payed tribute to one of the retirees who will benefit.
The chamber gave a standing ovation for Ken Naranjo, “I think I turned six shades of red.”
Naranjo has been a custodian at the state Capitol for more than a decade.
“Changing lights, fixing doors, fixing furniture, whatever they ask me to do,” said Naranjo.
Democratic Speaker of the House Crisanta Duran praised Naranjo and all state workers who she says deserve a secure retirement.
“It is those contributions from hard working people that really make our communities great and we need to make sure there is retirement security and a pension people can count on,” said Duran.
Duran and Republican President of the Senate Kevin Grantham admit it’s not a perfect deal.
“We shouldn’t kid ourselves that this was the be-all end-all. We’re going to continue to have this conversation,” said Grantham.
Under the compromise, the state will pitch in $225 million a year, current workers contributions will increase by 2 percent for a total of 10 percent, future hires won’t be eligible for full benefits until age 64, and annual cost of living increases for retirees will be capped at 1.5 percent.
“I wish that the retirement age was not as high as it is,” said Duran, “and the employee contribution was not as high either. But at end of day, something did get done.”
While Naranjo appreciated the tribute, actions speak louder than words, “I’m glad they came to something at least. I’ll miss it. I won’t miss the commute, but I’ll miss this place.”
One in 10 Coloradans benefit from the state’s pension fund. In a rare move, Gov. John Hickenlooper met with lawmakers late Wednesday night to urge them to strike a deal. Not only the solvency of the pension system, but the state’s credit rating, was at stake.
The bill was one of 721 introduced this session – the most in a decade. A total of 60 percent of those bills passed with bi-partisan support.