PERA BDS

In the 2000's I helped pass two bills shoring up Colorado's public employee pension plan (PERA). Having opted out of social security in the 1930's, PERA embodies the State's promise that teachers, judges and snow plow drivers' declining years will not decline into destitution. It holds employee contributions, employer contributions and investment earnings accrued over the decades between contribution and retirement.

In 1999 the PERA system was 102% funded, but improvident elected officials and two recessions abruptly dropped its funding ratio down near 60% where it remains.

In a much appreciated effort to defend Israel from unwarranted attack, Representatives Dan Nordberg and Dominick Moreno have introduced HB16-1284. Well-intentioned, it is as bad for PERA as it is good for Israel.

The bill addresses a little noticed but persistent effort to boycott, divest from and sanction (BDS) Israel. BDS advocates are upset Israel still holds the west bank of the Jordan River that Israel captured from Jordan the country in 1967. Advocates feel the indigenous residents should create a new political entity called Palestine in Jordan's former territory. Jordan has no objection. Israel suggests such an event ought be accompanied by assurances the Palestinians will stop killing Israelis. As negotiations have stopped and started and stopped, a couple hundred thousand Israeli's have settled in the areas closest to Israel.

Nordberg and Moreno would bar PERA from investing in companies participating in the BDS movement. Their intent is laudable. Israel needs all the friends it can get. But why PERA?

There's no indication PERA actually invests in any BDS companies. PERA is not Colorado's only substantial aggregation of quasi-public money. Denver fire and police have their own pension fund as do Denver civilian employees. C.U., C.S.U. and Mesa University all have significant endowment funds.

PERA is a small part of Colorado's $26.5 B state budget. Less than 2% of that budget goes to PERA. (See p. 60) What about the other 98%? Why should Colorado continue to contract with BDS companies while requiring only PERA to divest? For that matter, what about Colorado counties, municipalities and school and special districts?

The bill should be broad based; not focused on PERA alone. It passed its first committee 13 - 0 and will be heard shortly on the House floor.